California Governor Mandates Ethnic Studies Courses for University Students

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August 19, 2020

California governor Gavin Newsom (D.) signed a bill Monday mandating students in the California State University system take at least one course in ethnic studies despite concerns from the system's board of trustees and some professors.

The bill overrides requirements the California State University board of trustees implemented in July. Beginning next year, the state's public university system will be required to offer an ethnic studies course and include the class in lists of graduation requirements.

The board of trustees and some CSU faculty members have expressed concern over the precedent set by lawmakers dictating what students learn in school.

"Imagine if the California Legislature suddenly gets a Republican majority," Peter Herman, a professor of English at San Diego State University, told the school’s student newspaper. "Once we have allowed the legislature to mandate a curricular matter, what argument do we have? The door is opened to that kind of change."

The board of trustees' plan would have required students to take courses in both ethnic studies and social justice. It also would have included Muslims, Jews, and the LGBT community within the ethnic studies umbrella, which typically includes African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders.

Many schools across the country have mandated ethnic studies or anti-racism courses in schools following racial-justice and anti-police protests this summer. Duke University announced earlier this summer that it would mandate anti-racism and diversity training for all students and faculty. The University of Florida will also require students and staff to participate in training on "racism, inclusion, and bias."

Published under: California , Gavin Newsom