Ethnic studies is now a general education requirement in the California State University system after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law Monday.
Assembly Bill 1460, first presented to the state legislature in February of 2019, will require that all students starting with the class of 2024-25 must take at least one three-unit ethnic studies course to graduate.
The addition of this requirement does not increase students’ overall unit load, but rather takes the place of a previously unrestricted elective class choice.
At Long Beach State, AB1460 was fiercely fought for and defended by different activist groups on campus. Following the Associated Students Inc. senators’ initial opposition to the bill after its first reading in February, protests and calls to action ensued.
The senators ultimately reversed their initial stance on the matter and ended up supporting the bill.
As a system, the CSU represents a widely diverse demographic of students, faculty and staff.
For many, like Miztlayolxochitl Aguilera, fourth-year Chicano Latino studies major and member of the Tongva people, whose land CSULB’s campus was built on, an ethnic studies requirement has been a long time coming.
“It doesn’t matter what major you’re in, if you’re doctors, if you’re lawyers, if you’re teachers,” Aguilera said at an open forum calling for support of the bill in February. “[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.”
CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White and the Board of Trustees did not show support for the bill at the July 22 meeting, and instead offered an alternative called the “Ethnic Studies and Social Justice.”
This alternative would have ultimately allowed students to fulfill the requirement of taking an ethinic studies without actually ever taking a course whose materials focused on different ethnic groups, as the subject area covered by the ESSJ was expanded to include other areas of study.
Students for Quality Education Long Beach called for support for the assembly bill, deeming the chancellor’s and trustee’s alternative a “white washing” of ethnic studies in an Instagram post.
The assembly bill was approved with a 57 to 13 vote on August 8 and was sent to Gov. Newsom to review on August 7.
Representatives from La F.UE.R.Z.A. Student Association, formerly known as La Raza, said they are pleased with the passing of the law, but will continue to advocate for change.
“The fight for representation continues, we will support high school students in their fight to pass AB-331,” they said.
Beginning with students entering the CSU system in the 2020-21 school year, ethnic studies will now be part of their academic requirements.