Diversity at Middlesex Community College
By Walter Clark, director of admissions, Middlesex
Brown stood for the proposition that “absent
compelling state interest,” the Equal Protection
Clause of the Constitution prohibits public institutions
from discriminating in admissions on the basis of race.
Brown pushed open the door of opportunity for
citizenship and democratic rights for African Americans
and other groups deemed “minorities,” and
helped to launch the mass social and political movements
of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Brown affected
my life in many ways and it continues to have an influence
on my work at Middlesex Community College in Middletown,
Connecticut. Perhaps my personal background prepared
me to embrace cultural diversity and the spirit of Brown.
I am biracial. My mother is Japanese and my father
is African American. In effect, my parents were equal-opportunity
daters who came of age during the early years of the
Brown decision. I grew up in my father’s
old neighborhood in the South Bronx. Growing up biracial
in the South Bronx shaped my life and outlook on the
world. It gave me the strength to navigate my postsecondary
educational experiences in predominately white institutions.
Even today, the underlying principles of Brown
continue to influence my professional practice.
Diversity at Middlesex
The importance of incorporating
diversity into the curriculum cannot be overlooked
or ignored. It enriches teaching and learning
and promotes critical thinking for all students.
In many ways, the community college model is ideally
suited to create educational opportunities for a broad
cross-section of learners. At Middlesex Community College,
as at many other community colleges across the country,
access, diversity, affordability, and quality are intrinsic
to the institutional mission.
I am proud of the fact that at Middlesex Community
College, where I serve as director of admissions and
an adjunct faculty member in sociology, we are collectively
and individually fulfilling the purposes of Brown.
For example, in 1997, an institutional commitment to
diversity initiatives at Middlesex Community College
began with a minority participation plan. This comprehensive
- enhanced recruitment and retention efforts of diverse
- increased recruitment efforts of a diverse faculty
- invitations to diverse community members to serve
on all college advisory groups.
Under the leadership of Middlesex’s president,
Wilfredo Nieves, and with the firm support of faculty
and staff, the diversity initiatives have materialized
into specific programs aimed at preparing students to
succeed in the complex and diverse world in which we
live. As part of that commitment, Dr. Nieves started
the President’s Committee on Diversity (PCOD).
Moreover, our curriculum now requires faculty to include
elements of diversity in certain required courses. Our
admission policy also reflects a commitment to diversity.
We understand that some groups require more encouragement
and contact. Therefore, we not only recruit from traditional
sources such as the local high schools, but we also
visit the unemployment office, community-based nonprofit
organizations, and adult education centers. Since 2002,
with the full support of faculty, staff, and students,
we have successfully sponsored a Hispanic College/Career
Fair. Recently, under the leadership of Dr. Nieves,
we have begun an internationalization of the campus,
which includes increasing the recruitment of international
students and developing programs to address their needs
The importance of incorporating diversity into the
curriculum cannot be overlooked or ignored. It enriches
teaching and learning and promotes critical thinking
for all students. At Middlesex, this pedagogy is recognized,
validated, and put into practice. Without Brown
v. Board of Education, America would not be engaging
with diversity in the manner we see today, and I cringe
at the notion of what “separate but equal”
would look like in 2004. The legacy of Brown is honored
whenever we engage in constructive dialogue and forward-thinking
activities that promote democratic equity.