The California State University Board of Trustees passed a new general education requirement on Wednesday that will ensure all 430,000 undergraduate students across its 23 campuses take an ethnic studies or social justice course in order to graduate.
The requirement, which will go into effect beginning in 2023, can be satisfied with a host of social justice offerings, including “police reform, disparities in public health and the economics of racism.”
According to CSU Chancellor Timothy White, the ethnic studies and social justice requirement 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.”
Although the new requirement is purportedly rooted in “the traditional ethnic studies discipline,” left-wing activists have accused the board of trustees of diluting the importance of ethnic studies by creating a requirement that, while still focused on social justice, allows courses outside of the traditional scope of the field to be substituted.
The fields traditionally considered a part of ethnic studies include African American studies, Native American studies, Latino American studies, and Asian American studies.
“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,” said Charles Toombs, president of the California Faculty Association, reports Inside HigherEd. “Given how oppressive the CSU’s resolution is, no one will be surprised to hear that the CSU refused to consult with the CSU Council of Ethnic Studies, the faculty experts in Ethnic Studies or the CSU Academic Senate.”
“This is not a requirement for ethnic studies,” said Silas Abrega, a CSU trustee board member who voted against the requirement, reports The Associated Press.
The Los Angeles Times reports that examples of courses allowed in the new requirement could include “classes in Jewish or Muslim studies, LGBTQ studies or social justice, including courses on social change and social movements in the U.S., historical and cultural perspectives in disability studies, and health disparities in urban communities.”
But as it turns out, the CSU may not even have a choice and may be limited to offerings in the four core ethnic studies fields, regardless of the CSU Board of Trustee’s wishes.
According to The Los Angeles Times, the lower chamber of the California legislature plans to approve or reject a different ethnic studies mandate, originally passed last year, following changes in the Senate. If this legislation is approved, and then signed by the governor, it will supersede the CSU’s requirement and further narrow the scope of courses back to the core ethnic studies fields.
However, White believes the legislature should avoid superseding the board of trustee’s requirements with its own, more narrow requirement, reports Time Magazine.
“Government specifying a specific curriculum area is extraordinarily dangerous,” said the CSU chancellor. “Let’s not cross that Rubicon.”