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California Gov. Gavin Newsom signs bill that requires CSU students to take ethnic studies course

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature on AB 1460 will impact all future California State University (CSU) students and close possible loopholes that could have strayed students away from ethnic studies.

The bill related to CSU graduation requirements was introduced last year, passed earlier this month, and signed during a time of racial tension in America. Amidst coronavirus-related hate crimes, racial divides, and social justice movements that follow the murder of George Floyd, this bill will ensure students of all ethnicities learn about different racial groups in classes.

Yesterday, Gov. Newsom approved the bill that requires all CSU students to take a minimum of one, 3-unit ethnic studies course before they graduate. This requirement begins for students who will receive their degrees in 2024-2025.

All CSU campuses are required to provide for courses in ethnic studies beginning in the 2021-2022 academic year.

The ethnic studies courses will focus on four core groups– Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinx Americans. These historically marginalized groups make-up about two-thirds of California’s population, according to CalMatters.

The measure was introduced by Assemblymember Shirley Weber, who tweeted the bill “reflects 50 years of student, faculty, and community advocacy for curriculum reflective of and responsive to our diverse state.”

The bill is the first change in general education curriculum that the CSU system has seen in over 40 years, according to Fox News.

However, Gov. Newsom’s signature is not seen as a victory for all.

The approval by the governor overrules the reforms that were approved by CSU trustees last month.

The CSU Chancellor’s office called Weber’s bill “legislative intrusion.”

Critics of AB 1460 have raised concerns, saying the bill should have expanded to include a social justice requirement. That would have included courses on Jewish issues, women’s rights and the LGBTQ community.

Supporters, however, countered that social justice and ethnic studies are related, but not the same. They feared expanding the requirement would have deviated from the intent of fostering more racial understanding.

Sen. Steve Glazer of Contra Costa, CA voted against the bill.

“How would you feel if the governor was named Trump. How would you feel if the United States Senate, of today, represented our state Senate tomorrow,” according to CalMatters. “Do you want that leadership telling our academic community of what needs to be taught?”

Sen. Glazer is also a former member of the CSU Board of Trustees.

Among the arguments against the bill, is the financial strain that the CSU system will have to face in addition to post-coronavirus issues. AB 1460 will cost about $16 million to implement, reported NBC Bay Area.

Supporters of the ethnic studies graduation requirement argue that the financial pressure is worth it if it means preventing another historic period of protests, riots, and movements that demand systemic reform in America. Changes in education means more steps taken toward bridging the gaps between racial divides, and privileged and non-privileged communities in America.

According to the bill’s text, “Studies have found that both students of color and White benefit academically as well as socially from taking ethnic studies courses. Ethnic studies courses play an important role in building an inclusive multicultural democracy.”

Weber notes that the need for ethnic studies programs within the CSU systems have been voiced by students of color for decades.

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