SAN DIEGO —
Ethnic and social justice studies courses will become graduation requirements for the nation’s largest four-year public university system as the California State University Board of Trustees approved the idea Wednesday.
The move follows a summer of nationwide civil unrest over police brutality. The requirement will take effect in three years and is the first major change in the CSU system’s general education curriculum in more than 40 years.
The CSU has more than 482,000 students and covers 23 campuses around California, including two in San Diego County, San Diego State University and CSU San Marcos.
CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White said in a CSU statement that the courses would help create leaders to form a “just and equitable society.”
“It will empower our students to meet this moment in our nation’s history, give them the knowledge, broad perspectives and skills needed to solve society’s most pressing problems,” according to the statement.
Meantime, the California State Legislature is pondering its own bill to require ethnic studies in public universities.
The state senate and assembly approved Assembly Bill 1460 is awaiting the governor’s signature and would require CSU students to take courses in ethnic studies.
If signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, it will override the adopted curriculum set by the Cal State system.
The CSU said their adopted curriculum is better suited for academic freedom and student representation. The CSU proposal would not only allow ethnic studies courses for credit but also courses in Jewish studies, women and LGBTQ people, among others.
Critiques of the CSU proposal, however, say this freedom of choice means students don’t technically have to take a course in ethnic studies.
The state proposal, authored by San Diego democrat Shirley Weber, limits the choices of courses to explicitly ethnic studies-related courses -- baring students from substituting the requirement with social justice classes.
Critics of the state proposal say the state Legislature option costs more money -- about $12 million more than the CSU proposal, according to the chancellor’s office.
For San Diego County's two CSU campuses, San Diego State University and CSU San Marcos, the implications for the course requirements are still up in the air.
Office of Diversity officials at SDSU and the CSUSM Office of Inclusive Excellence have been contacted for comment.
If the CSU proposal stands as is, students will be required to take one unit of ethnic and social justice studies courses starting the 2023-24 school year.