California State University

Full CSU Board to Consider Ethnic Studies and Social Justice Course Requirement

The proposal would require students to take at least one course in “Ethnic Studies and Social Justice,” but some say the measure is watered down.

An empty classroom.
NBC 5 News

The full California State University Board of Trustees on Wednesday will consider a much-debated proposal that would require all students to take an ethnic studies or social justice class, with opponents arguing the social justice option waters down the intent of the requirement.

Following a lengthy philosophical discussion on the intent of ethnic studies courses and the university's autonomy, the board's Educational Policy committee on Tuesday approved the measure on a 10-2 vote, advancing the measure
to the full board for final approval.

The measure going before the trustees is the first proposed change to the CSU's general education curriculum in 40 years, according to a staff report prepared by Executive Vice Chancellor Loren Blanchard and Associate Vice Chancellor Alison Wrynn.

Under the proposal by CSU Chancellor Timothy White, CSU students beginning in the 2023-24 school year would be required to take a three-credit ethnic studies or social justice course. 

The proposal was met with opposition from some committee members who
said the inclusion of a ``social justice'' course option would still allow students to graduate without ever taking a traditional ``ethnic studies'' class on the history of the Latino, Black, Asian-American or Native-American communities.

Committee members Silas Abrego and Maryana Khames called for a delay in the vote, saying the policy proposal needed more work and suggesting the broadening of the measure to include social-justice courses effectively negated
it as a true ethnic studies requirement. The ``social justice'' provision would expand the types of courses students could take to meet the requirement, including classes focused on the Jewish community, the disabled, aging populations, the LGBT community and women/gender studies.

Although the idea of a delay by the committee appeared to generate some initial support, it quickly evaporated for two reasons -- a desire for the full Board of Trustees to weigh in on the measure, and the state Legislature's anticipated approval next week of a bill that would mandate the CSU require a traditional ``ethnic studies'' course focused on a community of color, without a ``social justice'' option.

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If the legislation, AB 1460, is given final legislative approval, it will move to the governor's desk. If the governor signs it, it will override whatever action the CSU Board of Trustees takes.

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