The University of Minnesota Board of Regents voted Friday to eliminate the General College as part of the most sweeping restructuring of the university in decades.
The board approved, on a 11-1 vote, President Robert Bruininks' plan intended to make the university one of the top three public research institutions in the world.
"You can't stand still in this world," said David Metzen, chairman of the board. "To resist change is like trying to hold your breath."
Before the vote, Bruininks told the regents, "We don't believe this is the final step in the process. We believe this is the first step in a much longer journey."
The part of the plan to eliminate the General College drew about a half-dozen protesters to the meeting room in the McNamara Alumni Center. The plan turns the General College into a department within the College of Education and Human Development.
For nearly 75 years, General College has kept a door open to underprepared students, offering an intensive focus on English, writing and math so those students could transfer to other colleges within the university.
Bruininks said his plan would not eliminate the curriculum or any programs that were in the General College. Several regents said the would keep a close eye on issues of access for underprepared students traditionally served by the General College.
In the past, Bruininks has said that graduation rates for students starting at General College were "intolerably low." Less than a third of them go on to earn a degree within six years, compared to 57 percent overall at the Twin Cities campus.
Those protesting on Friday called Bruininks' plan elitist and said some low income and minority students would suffer.
"If we lose the General College, when we are losing a whole group of students who could potentially be great leaders at this institution," said Minerva Munoz, 24, a graduate student studying public policy.
She was holding a sign that said, "Bob Bruininks ate my dream."
Regent Steven Hunter said he voted against he plan because he had too many unanswered questions about it. However, he said, "the status quo is not acceptable."
Overall, the plan would consolidate the school's 18 colleges to 15, create an honors college for top undergraduate students and would increase the emphasis on writing programs and, backers say, increase diversity among the student body.
Regent Clyde Allen was enthusiastic about the plan. "In my own mind, the decision is clear," he said. "This is absolutely the right step to take at the right time for this university."
By Amy Forliti, Associated Press Writer
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)