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CSU Board Mandates Ethnic Studies/Social Justice Course

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

An action this week by the California State University (CSU) Board guarantees that a whole crop of students in California will be required to take a course in ethnic studies or social justice before graduating from college. In the wake of social unrest around systemic racism, one pervasive barrier to progress has been the lack of foundational understanding about the history and experiences of Black, Indigenous and People of Color in this country.

Enter Assemblymember Shirley Weber. She introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1460 in February to require CSU students to take a course in ethnic studies before graduating.

CSU is the nation’s largest four-year public university system and educates roughly 482,000 students each year. Making a course in ethnic studies something that every student must take would create an incredible opportunity to expose an entire generation to perspectives they may not have received otherwise.

AB 1460 is controversial because it would arguably intrude on the academic freedom of the institution to make their own curriculum decisions. Despite this, Assemblymember Weber’s bill only needs one final Assembly floor vote before it ends up on the Governor’s desk.

In response to this bill, the CSU Board acted this week to approve their own measure making an ethnic studies or social justice course a graduation requirement beginning the 2023-24 school year. The CSU Board decision dilutes the requirement so that it’s not just focused on racial minorities and for that, many including the California Faculty Association, find the decision disappointing.

But AB 1460 is still looming. The legislature has until August 31 to send the bill to the Governor for signature. Then he will have to decide whether to go with the CSU’s broader requirement or side with Assemblymember Weber on an approach targeted at ethnic studies only. Either way, there will be a whole lot more people in California receiving a more diverse education.

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