College, county and state officials announced a major expansion of the Edison campus at a press conference on Nov. 1.
President Mark McCormick spoke on behalf of the college, according to a press release.
Also in attendance at the press conference were Gov. Phil Murphy, State Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, County Commissioner Director Ronald Rios, Edison Mayor Sam Joshi, Superintendent of Schools Jorge Diaz and County Administrator John Pulomena according to the press release.
The expansion project, called the Community Innovation and Opportunity Strategic Investment Plan, will see the following facilities built: an open-air stadium; a conference center; a new park; a new student center; a second magnet school; an athletic complex featuring 14 synthetic fields, 16 tennis courts and a cricket field; public art, water features and other amenities, according to the press release.
President McCormick, regarding the enterprise initiative, said, “There are plans for four new buildings on our campus that are at the heart of this transformative investment in Middlesex College. There will be a new Student Center that will offer our students modern, state-of-the-art facilities to gather, eat, study and collaborate, as well as engage in co-curricular and extracurricular activities. A new Academic and Workforce Center will include flexible classrooms and engaged learning labs for innovative teaching and learning experiences, including new credit and noncredit programs such as cybersecurity, supply chain and logistics. The Center will also house multiple spaces for large events that can be used by the College, businesses and industry and the Middlesex County community.”
McCormick also said, “There will be a second Magnet school (formerly Vocational-Technical School) on our campus that will provide preparation for Middlesex County high school students for careers in new and emerging industries that are in high demand and pay high wages. Locating a new Magnet School on our Edison campus will also afford high school students easier access to dual-enrollment learning opportunities on the Edison campus, working with our exceptional faculty, which we believe will lead to more students choosing to attend Middlesex College after graduation. There will be an open-air, multi-purpose community venue that the college will have regular access to for college athletic events, student performances, new Student orientation sessions and a host of other college events, possibly even commencement,” he said.
According to the press release, McCormick said, “On behalf of the faculty and staff and especially the students of Middlesex College, I want to thank (Murphy), (Coughlin) and the New Jersey Legislature and the Middlesex County Board of County Commissioners, led by (Rios), for their vision and focus on investing in the greater Middlesex County community.”
All logistics for the press conference, including the guest list, were handled by the county, said McCormick.
There was mixed feedback given by the Middlesex community in regard to the expansion plan.
Calvin Nemeckay, director of “Night of the Living Dead,” said he believes the expansion plan would entice more people to join the Visual, Performing and Media Arts department. “As an alum and current collaborator with the Visual, Performing and Media Arts department here at Middlesex, I believe that our arts department shows much promise. In my experience, the department produces great things. I have acted in and directed quite a few shows on our stages, and I have seen many students, both past and present, go forth with what they have learned here and create amazing things. If the department had more room to grow and flourish, I believe that incoming students could see our arts department as an ideal place to come to hone their craft and let their creativity flow. More funding to the VPMA department would be incredibly beneficial in this sense.”
First-year “Night of the Living Dead” actor, Jared Pacheco, said, “As a member of the Backstage Players, and actor of the recent horror play ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ my experiences consisted of a new passion. I am networking with talented people, and I am creating a pathway to various skills. I believe that a department that focuses on aspects like this opens a door for students to be at their utmost peak and creative selves.”
On the contrary, others were opposed to the expansion plan.
Mayheline Bencosme, second-year student, said neither she nor her fellow students had known of the project until after the Nov. 1 press conference.
“It would have been nice if (the college) had consulted the student body as a whole,” said Bencosme.
By not soliciting the opinions of students or those who work at the college prior to planning the project, Bencosme said the college had acted in its own interest rather than in students’.
“(The college is) really not concerned with what we want,” she said. “It’s just more about what they want.”
“We have made every effort to try to have conversations directly with the college president, and it’s been unsuccessful,” said Majiduddin.
She said, “We are in the dark about everything.”
Iman Khan, second-year student, said while she thought the fact the college didn’t consult students about the project was annoying, she didn’t believe construction would begin anytime soon.
According to MyCentralJersey.com, the college did not indicate a cost estimate, funding source or timeline for the project.
McCormick said the project will be financed by state and county investment and will not involve the college’s operational funds, which are used to fund salaries and benefits and cover operational expenses such as utilities, insurance and teaching and learning supplies.
He said the project is consistent with Destination 2040, the county’s strategic plan for education, healthcare, technology and private business.