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The cultural diversification of colleges and universities which initially targeted the needs of a specific minoritized group raises questions concerning the inclusion of every individual and the maintenance of the advances which have been made for the original population. This paper provides insight into the challenges and merits at the intersection of linguistic and racial/ethnic diversification within CUNY’s Medgar Evers College. Historically tied to the Black Campus Movement, the college is committed to being an agent of social transformation for the surrounding community. Aiming to understand the perspectives on language and diversity of the key stakeholders at the college, a number of semi-structured interviews were conducted. In terms of linguistic diversity, we found that there is tension between the adherence to the belief in an idealized ‘Standard English’, and the acknowledgement and support of linguistic variation. Regarding the college’s racial and ethnic climate, a perception of exclusion among non-black students of color became evident. Existing concepts as well as promising attitudes and practices among participants indicate some ways that could encourage all students to move from the margins to the center. We suggest that educators, administrators and staff at Medgar Evers should encourage dialogue and cooperation between linguistically and ethnically diverse students, both in and outside the classroom. At the same time the safe and empowering space for black students should remain intact. We also claim that further theorization of the diversification of predominantly non-white institutions is needed.


This work was originally published in Bellaterra Journal of Teaching & Learning Language & Literature.



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