Carroll Community College has created a new position and recently found the person to fill it. Clyde Johnson is the college’s new executive director of diversity, equity and inclusion.
He served as associate dean for Identity and Inclusion at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore where he led policy review, staff training and developed support services. Johnson was also the assistant director of Multi-Cultural Student Services and director of the Hugo A. Owens African American Cultural Center at Old Dominion University where he led a program that supported the social, academic and personal well-being of Black students.
The Times caught up with Johnson to learn about his goals for the new position and what he hopes to accomplish.
Q: Why did you choose to work at Carroll Community College?
A: I moved to Baltimore in 2008 with the intent on staying for three years and moving to Miami, Chicago or New York; however, I fell into a deep respect for the people and cultures of Baltimore City and began exploring the counties. I have enjoyed antique and thrift shopping in Westminster, and I participated in Common Ground on the Hill at McDaniel in 2019 which allowed me a preview into Westminster and the community.
When the position was advertised for an Executive Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, I was curious as to what CCC was thinking, teaching, training, experiencing, and or grappling with around the concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion. But the real reason I interviewed and accepted the offer was because of a phone call from Dr. James Ball, the President of CCC. This had to be one of the most personal, honest and genuine conversations I’ve ever had with a college president. He didn’t come from a place of authority and position but wanted to have a conversation about his thoughts and what he was seeking for an inaugural director. Something about that call communicated his integrity and his sincerity about trying to support students to live and work in a diverse world, as well as support his employees.
Q: Why is it important for a college to have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion office or department?
A: Often colleges and universities create a diversity office or hire a Chief Diversity Officer in response to a major crisis, mostly racialized or sexual harassment issues. People and institutions sometimes get stuck in autopilot or in our patterns, and that creates blinders, and those blinders create obstacles for students, staff and faculty. When we operate with blinders on, people often get left out of educational opportunities, services, programs, support and advising, as well as, promotions and equal pay, which creates barriers for groups of people, whether it’s people of color, women, people with disabilities and so forth.
Constant barriers, restricted access, different treatment and opportunities lead to systems of inequity which negatively impacts jobs, incomes, health and quality of life. To me, this negative impact is significantly worse when institutions intentionally build and uphold systems of oppression because then it’s often accompanied by very bad professional behavior and mistreatment. Fortunately for me, Carroll Community College did not wait for a crisis, and this shows the importance they have placed on examining any unintentional barrier that may exist in the organization, and their willingness to address issues.
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Forward thinking institutions and administrations are creating diversity offices and positions to help them think, plan and restructure before it becomes a “crisis issue.” If we can get this right in higher ed institutions, then we can pass these lessons on to our students which will only have a far more pervasive reach at their places of work and within the communities where they live. lf higher ed institutions work on it, and then we teach students about equity and inclusion around race, gender, age, physical ability, sexuality, religion and so forth, we can create a healthier community and nation.
Q: What is something you hope to accomplish in this position?
A: I hope my presence supports difficult and awkward conversations that we must have to address breaking down barriers and oppression and build bridges and communities. I hope, if anything, I help people understand that diversity work does not have to be confrontational, scary, ugly, or hard, and it doesn’t mean taking away something from one group to benefit another. I hate to think that in 2021 we still struggle around equity for women, or the fact that 1 in 4 adults in the US have a disability, and we still struggle to support them. And yes, how to address race related situations.
Q: You mentioned reaching out to county partners. How can those partnerships help create a more inclusive environment?
A: I am in a learning curve about Carroll County and the people and organizations, but I have met some pretty amazing people who have much to offer. I think about one of our students, a 16-year-old dually enrolled Winters Mills High School-Carroll Community College program. Lucinda Diehl is a force to be reckoned with at her age and has brilliant concepts around climate, sustainability and the impacts on people. If a 16 year-old can think about transformation, certainly there are organizations and other individuals in the Carroll community who think about inclusion in dynamic ways. Those are the partnerships I’d like to develop to think about diversity, equity and inclusion solutions. This work cannot be done by one person. I invite them to reach out to us at the College.
Q: What do you hope the campus community learns from you?
A: I hope that I can help the campus community, and even the broader Carroll County community, understand that diversity, equity, and inclusion is not just about race. It isn’t just about Black folks. It isn’t just about women or the disabled. Yes, all of these groups will benefit from the work and changes in education, policies and procedures based on our diversity work; but, what I want the community to learn is that the survival of all humanity depends on the work to dismantle systems of oppression and figure out ways to live more respectfully with each other, with all of our differences, and recognize that we also have so many similarities. I hope we continue to erase lies of the past, and erect structures that support all people. At this point, it is impossible to send all Black people back to Africa, all whites back to Europe. It’s impossible to take women out of the board rooms, out of pulpits, out of the Congress, Senate and even the White House. We are all in this thing together. We must think about “others” more and more if we are to survive in a healthy world.