Approximately 100 students participated in a demonstration during the Associated Students Inc. Senate meeting to express their frustrations and concerns about the Senate’s vote against requiring a mandatory ethnic studies general education course.
Senate resolution #2020-13 would show the university’s support to Assembly Bill 1460, which would require students in the California State University system to take a three-unit ethnic studies course. The bill would not increase the unit requirement needed to earn a degree.
Of those present, 23 spoke during public comment. Due to the high volume of speakers, each person was given 40 seconds to speak.
“As someone who worked for students, as someone who believes in ASI, I’ve never been more disappointed to say I’ve been involved in ASI than I was last week,” Logan Vournas, fourth-year education major and former vice president of ASI said.
After their comment, Vournas explained that Senate bills go through three readings and the first two readings typically are there for senators to familiarize themselves with the legislation and submit edits to it. Last week, the resolution was voted down at its first reading.
“This was the very earliest stage they could possibly reject this,” Vournas said.
Members of the La Raza student association, the Chicano and Latino studies department and other activist groups were in attendance.
Some students said CSULB’s advertising the diversity ranking but not supporting ethnic studies was hypocritical.
“I’m pretty much tired that they see us for diversity points … like using our names, who we are for profit,” said Randall Santiago, a first-year political science major, “but when it comes down to actually supporting us … they shut that down.”
Others expressed their concern that the experiences of people of color are being ignored by not pushing for this bill.
“If we say that ethnic studies isn’t needed, it’s like saying white people don’t need to validate history, the lives and the disproportionately negative experiences of people of color,” said Lynda Aguayo, political science graduate student.
However, opponents of the bill have expressed concern that the requirement as described by the bill would interfere with academic freedom and make it harder for students to schedule classes for graduation and have a negative economic impact.
Sen. Taryn Williams pointed to the hundreds of new lecturers that would need to be hired as evidence of the negative economic impact the bill could have.
“I think it needs to come from within the university itself and have our folks that design curriculum really take a holistic approach at all the different needs of all the different departments and all the different colleges on our campus, so that no one is really harmed,” Williams said.
Williams said by increasing tuition or slashing programs within College of Liberal Arts or other departments, she believes that the negative effects of the hasty implementation of an ethnic studies requirement will be vast.
“I support a bill that will ensure these concerns are addressed so that we can see our goal of an ethnic studies requirement actually brought into reality, not just drafted on a piece of paper and implemented without thoughtful input,” Williams said.
Sen. Jireh Deng explained her reason for voting no last week as tears streamed down her face.
“I understand the importance of furthering of ethnic studies,” Deng said. “But in an effort of fighting for the things we want, not be blind to the externalities of the decisions we make, [we] voted no for the reasons that this bill could do more harm than good to individuals within impacted majors.”
Vice president Leen Almahdi showed support for the resolution last week, expressing disappointment in her fellow senators for their decision.
“If you’re not passionate about something, if you don’t truly believe that something can transform higher education, you wouldn’t be here to speak, you know, it’s an intimidating process, so to me it was amazing to see so many students here,” Almahdi said. “It just proves that there is a need for this, that students within the CSU system need this, that students within the CSU want this.”
After further debate, the senate voted 10-2-6 to pass SR #2020-12, a resolution outlining which bills ASI would lobby for which included a section in support of AB 1460, giving it another chance to be read a third and final time at next week’s meeting.
The resolution could still be amended in its final reading to remove AB 1460.
The next ASI senate meeting will be Wednesday, Feb 26 at 3:30 p.m. in USU 234.
There were corrections made to the title and to the language regarding the vote, which was corrected from “10 to 6” to “10-2-6”, to better reflect the events of the meeting. Corrections were made on Feb. 20 at 9:46 a.m.