LONG BEACH— The California State University system will require undergraduates to take a course in ethnic studies or social justice starting with the 2023-24 academic year. The Board of Trustees approved the graduation requirement on Wednesday, July 22. It is the first significant change to CSU’s general education curriculum in 40 years.
“This action, by the CSU and for the CSU, lifts Ethnic Studies to a place of prominence in our curriculum, connects it with the voices and perspectives of other historically oppressed groups. 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,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy White in a statement.
There will be a broad spectrum of course offerings that address historical, current and emerging ethnic studies and social justice issues. They’ll be composed of African American, Asian American, Latinx and Native American studies.
Canyon News spoke to Dr. Lauren Arenson of California State University, Los Angeles’ Department of Chicana(o) and Latina(o) Studies. Dr. Arenson teaches many CLS courses including “Cultural Diversity,” “Race, Gender, and Hybridity in the Americas” and “Environmental Justice.”
“I am excited by the passing of AB1460, the graduation requirement of a 3 unit ethnic studies class. I am not concerned with whether this requirement was initiated by academics or by politicians. I am pleased that students’ overall number of units will not be impacted. Yet, most of all, I am excited by the chance to have open discourse about difficult topics that plague our communities.
We, as a society, need to sit down in safe environments, to discuss the facts of how people are treated in this country. It is essential to address the history — up to current times. Yet, we need to focus on facts. Having a differing of opinions is just part of academic discourse. Working through these differences is what can enhance empathy and compassion toward others. Yet, unsubstantiated opinions are not part of a college classroom.
I do hope that more CSUs expand the number of courses pertaining to indigenous populations. This is essential to a holistic understanding of California history,” said Dr. Arenson.
According to an analysis by the Associated Press, the CSU’s plan may cost between $3 million and $4 million. The state’s bill would be approximately $16 million to implement statewide.
However, California legislators may pass a different plan. It would not include the requirement of an ethnic studies or social justice class. If it does pass, it would overrule the CSU’s plan.