Aug 10, 2020
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CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White championed the CSU's alternative to AB 1460. (David J. Hawkins/The Sundial)

CSU’s alternative to AB 1460 passes despite disapproval from ethnic studies community

This story was provided through the Cal State Student Wire and was written by Orlando Mayorquin, News Editor at The Sundial for Cal State Northridge.

The California State University Board of Trustees voted 13-5 to pass a measure to establish a CSU systemwide ethnic studies and social justice requirement starting in the 2023-2024 academic year. The measure is the CSU’s alternative to AB 1460 and is widely opposed by the CSU’s ethnic studies community.

The measure makes amends for the state’s Title 5 Code of Regulation — to require undergraduate students to take a three-unit lower-division course — “in study designed to understand ethnic studies and social justice.”

Opponents of the proposal from the CSU’s ethnic studies community say it is a “watered-down version” of the ethnic studies requirement outlined in AB 1460, because it broadens the requirement to include courses on other oppressed groups and conceivably allows for a student to graduate without taking an ethnic studies course as defined in the assembly bill.

AB 1460 requires undergraduate CSU students to take a three-unit ethnic studies course that focuses on four historically defined racialized groups — African Americans, Native Americans, Latina/o Americans and Asian Americans. The bill passed through the state legislature last month and is awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature.

“How the board can look at anyone with a straight face and say that an Ethnic Studies requirement can be fulfilled without ever having to take a course in Ethnic Studies is beyond believable,” read a statement from the California Faculty Association following the vote.

The CSU Council of Ethnic Studies and other experts in the discipline were not properly consulted in crafting the CSU’s proposal, according to the statement released by the CFA. The statement called the lack of consultation a “potent and real example of how systemic racism works in the CSU.”

Chancellor Timothy P. White and proponents of the CSU’s proposal say it allows students more choice and is more inclusive than AB 1460, because it expands the requirement to include courses on other groups like Muslims or the LGBTQ community. He championed the proposal as a historic marker of progress.

“It will empower our students to meet this moment in our nation’s history, giving them the knowledge, broad perspectives and skills needed to solve society’s most pressing problems. And it will further strengthen the value of a CSU degree,” White said.

White and trustees in support of the proposal were critical of AB 1460, arguing that the bill would set a precedent for the government to dictate the CSU’s curriculum. The chancellor also spoke and voted against a motion to postpone the vote on the proposal until the next board meeting in September. They believe a delay on the vote would guarantee that Newsom would sign AB 1460 into law in the coming weeks.

Tuesday’s vote will have less impact at CSUN, where a six-unit comparative cultural and ethnic studies graduation requirement has existed for years.

“On our campus, it will yield very little difference. We’ve already been able to put ethnic studies into Section F. We already have ethnic studies courses in our Title 5 requirement. So it wasn’t a question about what was going to happen at CSUN,” said Theresa Montaño, professor of Chicana/o Studies at CSUN and supporter of AB 1460. “This was a broader question about what is going to happen to the current students and the future students of the CSU.”

It is unclear what action the CSU will take if Newsom, who is expected to make the decision in the coming weeks, signs AB 1460 into law.

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