CREDIT: Luis Alejo
Press conference in support of the ethnic studies graduation requirement in Sacramento on June 27, 2018.

California State University took another step Tuesday toward requiring students to take an ethnic studies class as part of their lower-division coursework, a move that would also have significant implications for the state’s 115 degree-granting community colleges. 

During the 23-campus system’s Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday, the educational policy committee voted 9-2 to make a minor amendment to a policy approved in July that would have required students to take a course in ethnic studies or a class with a social justice component.

To comply with AB 1460, a new law requiring students to take a class in ethnic studies, the amended policy stipulates that students must complete the requirement by taking a class in one of four ethnic studies disciplines: Native American studies, African American studies, Asian American studies or Latina and Latino studies. A class deemed to have a social justice component that falls outside those disciplines would not fulfill the requirement. 

The board did not make revisions to the policy requested by faculty, who want greater control over implementing the new requirement. Faculty groups called on the board to establish that the class could be fulfilled as either an upper- or lower-division course, but the trustees did not take that step on Tuesday. 

Now, students are likely to be required to complete the class in the first half of their coursework. Because many students take those lower-division classes at community college before receiving an associate degree and transferring to CSU as part of a specialized pathway, it would shift the responsibility to community colleges to offer ethnic studies to those students. That would be a significant financial burden to those colleges, many of which don’t currently offer any ethnic studies classes. 

The CSU chancellor’s office says it is still finalizing the implementation plan for the new class and has not officially determined that it will be a lower-division class.

However, Michael Uhlenkamp, a spokesman for the chancellor’s office, said in a statement to EdSource that “it is our preference to have the requirement be a lower-level” requirement.

“We are hoping to have that guidance to share with the campuses in the next few weeks,” he added. 

CSU faculty groups want individual campuses to have greater flexibility over how to implement the requirement and do not want to restrict students to taking the class in their lower-division coursework.

CSU’s Academic Senate, the official body representing faculty on system-wide issues, last week passed a resolution urging the Board of Trustees and the chancellor’s office to revise the proposal and establish that the requirement could be met as an upper- or lower-division class. 

CSU’s Council on Ethnic Studies, which laid the groundwork for AB 1460, also took that position, as did the California Faculty Association, the union representing faculty across the system.

“We are looking to the CSU Board of Trustees … to exercise its oversight of the Chancellor’s Office and demand freestanding graduation requirement, allowing upper or lower division Ethnic Studies courses,” Kenneth Monteiro, the former dean of San Francisco State’s College of Ethnic Studies, said in a statement. Monteiro is also the chair of the CSU Council on Ethnic Studies.

The chancellor’s office argues that it would not make sense to give campuses autonomy for implementing AB 1460.

Unlike a campus requirement, a system requirement must be consistent across the 23 campuses,” Alison Wrynn, CSU’s associate vice-chancellor of academic programs, said during Tuesday’s meeting. 

If the class is indeed implemented as a lower-division requirement, it would create significant costs for the state’s community colleges that offer associate degrees. 

Under that plan, the class would become part of CSU’s general education requirements. Students who transfer to a CSU campus from community college as part of the Associate Degree for Transfer pathway are required to complete those requirements at community college. About 14,000 students transferred to a CSU campus on that pathway this fall.

Aisha Lowe, the community college system’s vice-chancellor of educational services and support, previously told EdSource that it would cost up to $45 million in new spending for the system to offer the required courses to those students. 

Most of that spending would be to hire new faculty. Lowe estimated that about 40 colleges currently do not offer any ethnic studies classes, and said that those that do will likely need to offer more of those classes to satisfy all students. 

The law goes into effect beginning with students graduating from CSU in 2025. That means that students who enter college next fall will be the first class subjected to the requirement. For those students to be able to complete the requirement by their second year of college, the community college system would need to have the ethnic studies classes available by Fall 2022.

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  1. Rob 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    The CSU is simply not ready to implement this Legislative requirement. About 125,000 students will enter 23 CSU campuses and there’s no conceivable way they can all get the handful of classes to satisfy the requirement. The Legislature simply needs to amend the law and allow students to take other social justice courses.

  2. Robert White 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    “Would likely need to offer more of these courses” is grossly understated. The number of units required will not change. Ethnic studies demand will reach that of English composition which, based on a study of 2019 course offerings* will require approximately 800 masters level ethnic studies faculty in California for community colleges alone (and I’d guess about 200 PhD ethnic studies facility in the CSU system). What people aren’t talking about … Read More

    “Would likely need to offer more of these courses” is grossly understated. The number of units required will not change. Ethnic studies demand will reach that of English composition which, based on a study of 2019 course offerings* will require approximately 800 masters level ethnic studies faculty in California for community colleges alone (and I’d guess about 200 PhD ethnic studies facility in the CSU system). What people aren’t talking about is that not changing the unit requirement will mean that eventually 800 other disciplines are going to lose jobs if colleges will be expected to run at current efficiencies.

    *data obtained from ccc chancellors office data mart.

    Replies

    • Robert White 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

      If you look in the data mart (public ally available) under courses with ethnic studies TOPs codes vs English composition courses you can see what the problem is.

  3. Mark Van Selst 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    A lower division General Education requirement can be met with an upper division course at a CSU (this is somewhat common in other GE areas). What the Board of Trustees accomplished by placing the Ethnic Studies requirement in lower division GE (via displacement of 3 of 9 units that were in social studies) is to ensure that it is covered prior to transfer for associates level transfer students who are limited to a total … Read More

    A lower division General Education requirement can be met with an upper division course at a CSU (this is somewhat common in other GE areas). What the Board of Trustees accomplished by placing the Ethnic Studies requirement in lower division GE (via displacement of 3 of 9 units that were in social studies) is to ensure that it is covered prior to transfer for associates level transfer students who are limited to a total of 120 units – 60 at their California community college and 60 to complete the degree at their California State University campus. The tricky part about AB 1460 is that it interacts with SB 1440/SB 440 in ways that displace other curriculum and the usual remedies cannot be applied because the curriculum was derived from state law rather than the CSU itself.

  4. Robert Jaurequi 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Excellent article, I plan to share this valuable information in my educational committee. I have also shared it already with others. Good reporting

  5. Joe 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    I presume this is a fight about money. CSU faculty want to be paid for teaching the classes?

  6. Ann 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Great article on important topic. Maybe schools should limit other required options and prioritize these types of courses. Train current faculty to save costs.

  7. Angry 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    As a current senior CSU student, this thing is BS. If the CSU system wants students to graduate in 4 years they need to stop adding on requirements. Having to find room in an already packed schedule for an ethnic studies class has been a huge headache. This isn’t the first curveball the CSU system has thrown me. I honestly feel like it has hindered my education and career path and has made me extremely bitter about college in general.

  8. Thomas Busse 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    When I went to UC Berkeley (in a different California system), I had to take a 1960's era requirement course in "American Cultures." I was pleasantly surprised. You could tell the faculty really thought about the course and broadened out the concept of "American Cultures" far beyond the race-wars of the '60s through the '90s - the American culture of whisky drinking in Appalachia, dueling in the Old South, human sacrifice in the Aztec empire. … Read More

    When I went to UC Berkeley (in a different California system), I had to take a 1960’s era requirement course in “American Cultures.” I was pleasantly surprised. You could tell the faculty really thought about the course and broadened out the concept of “American Cultures” far beyond the race-wars of the ’60s through the ’90s – the American culture of whisky drinking in Appalachia, dueling in the Old South, human sacrifice in the Aztec empire. At the core of the curriculum was Crosby’s “Ecological Imperialism.” Maybe this will be an opportunity to broaden the conception of “ethnic studies” beyond the tabloid.

  9. Paul Muench 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Requiring all CSU campuses to offer ethnic studies as upper and lower division classes would make for consistency across all campuses. What’s wrong with that?