New graduation requirement will impact students


Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

Students will be required to take ethnic studies courses starting 2023.

Tania Ortiz, Opinion Editor

With the nation mobilizing and becoming aware of the social injustices occurring to minority communities, there is a growing demand for schools to require an ethnic studies/social justice class for their students. 

The need to learn about systemic inequalities has become a priority, inspiring many to educate themselves and start conversations concerning these issues.

In late July, the CSU Board of Trustees approved to add a new amendment to Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations. The new amendment would have required undergraduate students starting the 2023-24 academic year to take a three-unit course in either ethnic studies or social justice to graduate. This amendment to Title 5 was the first major change to the CSU general education requirements in 40 years.

Almost a month later, Governor Newsom signed bill AB 1460, overruling the CSU Board of Trustees amendment. The legislation will require all CSU undergraduates to take at least one three-unit ethnic studies course. Under this bill, ethnic studies courses are defined as those having a focus on African American, Asian American, Latino/a American or Native American studies. 

This requirement is more niche than the one passed by the CSU Trustees, where students could have chosen from not only ethnic studies but also social justice courses, like women’s studies. Another difference with this bill compared to the Board of Trustees’ amendment is the requirement will not be enacted until the 2024-25 academic year.

The question stands: why implement this change just now?

Times are changing and as a society, we are noticing these injustices occurring to minority communities, such as the African American community. The passing of this legislation comes amid the ever-growing push for ethnic studies to be required in educational institutions following the Black Lives Matter protests and push for dismantling systemic and unconscious racism in the education system.

The CSU system is considered the birthplace of the ethnic studies department, with San Francisco State as the first school in the nation to create an ethnic studies department. It is no surprise that this requirement is being implemented, yet it feels like this should have been a requirement long ago. It shouldn’t have had to take this long to recognize the importance of ethnic studies courses.

Students who take ethnic studies courses will benefit greatly from them. Students will be exposed to the histories of different communities and learn the stories they didn’t learn growing up because they weren’t written in the textbooks. 

Ethnic studies courses will teach students how to view society through other cultural perspectives. Additionally, it will enrich them to appreciate the cultural “salad” that is the United States.

Furthermore, ethnic studies courses also benefit students who want to learn more about the communities they belong to. A few semesters back, I took a Chicano/a Studies course to learn more about the community I identify with. 

When taking this class, I had to reflect on everything I thought I knew about the history of the United States. At the end of the course, I became aware of issues concerning my community that I hadn’t known and was able to give labels to things I experienced on my own.

Requiring students to take courses in this subject will empower the next generation to support and lend their voices to social movements like Black Lives Matter. Students might even become encouraged to continue taking more courses throughout their undergraduate career or maybe even major or minor in this area of study. 

This ethnic studies requirement will be integral to creating change within our community and moving towards inclusivity and equality.