The California State Senate passed Assembly Bill 1460 Thursday which will require all California State University students to complete three units of ethnic studies courses as a graduation requirement.
The issue of ethnic studies was a hotly contested one at Long Beach State after the Associated Students Inc. senators voted “no” on resolution #2020-13 in February, which was meant to show the university’s support for the assembly bill.
Student activists from different cultural groups, including Black Student Union, La Raza and even former members of ASI, came out in support of passing the resolution, something they said was long overdue.
Groups protested subsequent ASI meetings using the public comment section as a platform to voice their concerns over the governing body’s opposition to the bill, after having voted it down after its first reading.
Others shared their desire to see their identity reflected in the curriculum, staff and campus makeup.
Eric Cota, a fourth-year communications major, was one of those student activists. He and many others attended an open forum hosted by then ASI President Lizbeth Vasquez.
“We’re a very diverse [school] that [ethnic studies] should be required,” Cota said. “I don’t think that they’ve done enough research in order to make that decision, I think that’s a way for them to kind of diminish ethnic studies.”
Two weeks after their initial dissent, ASI ultimately reversed their vote and approved support for AB1460.
Leen Almahdi, vice president at the time, had shown support for the bill from the start but said she was grateful for the discourse it had inspired.
“A lot of folks think that this is a divisive issue, but why were the Senate chambers created? They were created for us to author legislation, to debate them how to improve them, how to better them talking about what our constituents want,” Almahdi said.
Miztlayolxochitl Aguilera, fourth-year Chicano Latino studies major and member of the Tongva people, whose land CSULB’s campus was built on, spoke during public comment about the value of the ethnic studies requirement.
“It doesn’t matter what major you’re in, if you’re doctors, if you’re lawyers, if you’re teachers,” Aguilera said. “[You all] are coming to our communities and talking to our kids and building the buildings that our children are going to live in and go to school in, so you owe it to us as the people who are going to live in the communities that you’re building.”
If signed by the governor, the ethnic studies requirement will be put into effect beginning the 2021-22 academic year, meaning those graduating in 2024-25 will have had to fulfill at least three units of an ethnic studies course to graduate.