Rethinking saving General College

The University can’t be both a junior college and a world-class research institution.

by Adri Mehra

Hurry up, everybody! The Save General College bandwagon is leaving! Quick, hop on! Don’t think about it! You want to be “campus-cool,” right? Hey man, all you got to do is order early-bird season tickets for Gophers football and slap on this free “Save General College” T-shirt some dude gave me at this beer-pong tournament last week!

I understand the sentiments behind the Save General College brigade, but at this point, that’s all they are – only sentiments, plus a whole lot of noise that seems to be missing on Election Day, Labor Day and Earth Day, when things really matter for everybody, not just bored college students.

Relax, people. In terms of campus environment, the Office for Multicultural and Academic Affairs, and especially its vice president, Avelino Mills-Novoa, will not let campus diversity spiral into that of a debutante ball in Arkansas. I saw Mills-Novoa speak at a symposium that coincided with University Theatre’s “The Laramie Project” earlier this month. We can all rest assured: He’s a hell of a guy, and if the situation were going to be that bad, he’d be piping up.

If the University were made up of “racists” and “Uncle Toms” from the top down, as mentioned in a recent letter to the editor, wouldn’t General College just be a shell game for their overarching anti-equality agenda – and thus delegitimize General College as a worthwhile institution? And wouldn’t such moral turpitude on the part of the administration manifest itself in other endeavors that precluded minorities ?

The answer is, no – or not yet, anyway. Of course, it remains to be seen if the University would torpedo all things diverse in its admissions process once it did away with General College. But in this modern age – and rightly so, obviously – it would never happen. Sure, the University can do better than its 16.4 percent minority rate. But isn’t the Save General College crowd shooting itself in the foot when it lumps all of us minority students with General College’s lower standards?

So you can fill this debate with all the maroon and gold you want but it still won’t be about color, as you want it to be. In the final analysis, it’s about this university finally making a power play to become a better, more focused institution for everyone within its reach. We can’t expect it to be a junior college and a world-class research university at the same time. The former is what millions of tax dollars for community colleges are there for.

Everyone knows you need a four-year degree to have a decent shot at most careers. But you don’t need a General College at a university to prepare and transition students who could go elsewhere to rack up required post-secondary credits, save thousands of dollars and then be more than able to seamlessly transfer into the University after a year or two, provided they do well in the interim.

If you haven’t noticed, the University is doing some serious soul-searching these days as far as defining its mission statement, and the unavoidable fact is that the spirit of General College already exists in many fine community, technical and vocational colleges and academies throughout our city, state and country. By keeping General College afloat in an era of Republican penny-pinching, we end up doing a disservice to the other 97 percent of degree-seekers at the University.

Our campus is short on space, money and patience. It’s not about saving General College. It’s about saving the University.

Adri Mehra welcomes comments at [email protected]