NEW HAVEN, Conn.
Students at Hartford’s Capital Community College here have filed a federal racial discrimination lawsuit in an attempt to block the college’s move to a former downtown department store.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New Haven, claims that moving the college from its current campus to the former G. Fox building would mean less classroom and parking space, and “will entirely and adversely change the character of the institution.”
Because the school has the largest proportion of minority students among Connecticut’s 12 community colleges — more than half of the 2,766 students are Black or Hispanic — the students contend the move will harm their education and violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
Students contend they will get a smaller building that is less adequate than those at other state community colleges. Some point to Manchester Community College, which has nearly twice as many students as Capital and is in the midst of a $62 million building project.
“We want the building to stop,” says Norman A. Pattis, a New Haven lawyer whose firm represents a coalition of students and student groups from Capital. “I believe race is a fault line in our society. If you’re looking for an easy mark to exploit, it’s often people of color.”
The lawsuit seeks temporary and permanent orders to halt construction. No hearing date has been set.
State officials dispute the students’ allegations.
“I think the students will find the [new] facility much better than the one they are in now,” says Dean Pagani, a spokesman for Gov. John G. Rowland. “The current campus does have a lot of structural problems. This is an opportunity to build a new campus and revitalize downtown Hartford at the same time.”
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