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Governor Signs Cal State Ethnic Studies Bill Into Law, Overriding Trustees' Plan

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All 23 California State University campuses will be required to offer ethnic studies classes starting next year and undergraduate students will have to take at least one of those classes to earn their degree under a bill signed into law Monday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The new law, Assembly Bill 1460, overrides a plan approved by the Cal State trustees last month that would have allowed classes with a social justice component to count toward earning a degree.

The law also gives CSU ethnic studies faculty a greater say in crafting the requirement’s goals and which classes would qualify. The CSU administration proposal opened the process up to a wide range of departments and did not give the same power to ethnic studies faculty.

“This bill reflects 50 years of student, faculty, and community advocacy for curriculum reflective of and responsive to our diverse state,” the bill’s author, San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, said on Twitter. Weber is a former San Diego State University professor.

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Undergraduate students who earn their degrees starting in the 2024-25 academic year will be required to take at least one three-unit class in one of four specific ethnic studies disciplines: Native American studies; African American studies; Asian American studies; or Latina and Latino studies.

Weber, along with the CSU’s powerful faculty union, clashed with administrators at the CSU trustees meeting last month -- not about whether the requirement is needed, but who would have a say in creating it.

At the meeting, a CSU trustee warned that signing AB 1460 into law amounted to undue legislative encroachment into curriculum matters that should be left up to university administrators.

A Cal State spokesman said on Tuesday the university system will not challenge the new law.

“The CSU complies with all state and federal laws and will begin work to implement the requirements of the new legislation,” spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp said in an email.

More than 100,000 students earn bachelor’s degrees from the CSU’s 23 campuses each year. The university hopes the ethnic studies requirement will better prepare them for the challenges of today’s society.

“I think they'll be able to recognize the injustice in our institutions, in our workplaces that involves people of color,” said Charles Toombs, president of the California Faculty Association and professor of Africana Studies at San Diego State University.

“I think [students] will speak up,” he added. “I think they will have the lens to raise issues. And in that sense, they will start the process of dismantling a lot of ugliness that has existed in this country for centuries.”


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