US Cal State University pushes ethnic studies requirement forward even as state bill threatens to derail it
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Trustees ofState University are at odds with the state legislature on potentially expanding the school system's requirements on making ethnic studies a .
After six years of developing a plan with a broad array of classes covering ethnic issues and academic studies, the trustees will vote Wednesday to make the first changes to the school's general education curriculum that they've seen in 40 years.
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Girma had no choice but to watch from afar as a crowd chanting "This is our place!" set fire to the school he founded more than a decade ago. Though he has lived his whole life in Shashamene, a fast-growing town in Ethiopia's Oromia region, Girma's parents are not members of the country's largest ethnic group, the Oromo, meaning he is often treated as an outsider. Had he tried to intervene and save his school from the Oromo youths bent on destroying it, he thinks he may well have been killed."If you leave them to do whatever they want, they don't touch you.
The proposal, however, is much broader than a similar initiative by the California Legislature, which would require California State University campuses starting in the 2021-2022 academic year to offer courses on race and ethnicity focusing on Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and Latina and Latino Americans. Students would need to take a three-credit course to graduate.
The university system's proposal would take effect in the 2022-2023 academic year and offers a greater selection of topics than the legislature's bill, which critics said does not include some courses such as Jewish studies. Trustees said their proposal also spells out that students can take courses on social justice that explore issues such as the criminal justice system and public health disparities.
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The university's plan would cost $3 to $4 million while the bill is estimated to need $16 million for implementation.
The trustees argue that having the government decide on academic requirements is too broad an oversight.
“Government specifying a specific curriculum area is extraordinarily dangerous,” Timothy White, chancellor of California State University said. “Let's not cross that Rubicon.”
However, the legislature's bill was written by a former professor and Democratic Assemblywoman from San Diego, Shirley Weber, who said the state government intervened with their own bill after years of delay in curriculum changes from the university.
Weber said the school's recommendation “does not respond to the challenges we currently face, has been rejected by the faculty, and is not supported by students."
She also said that the California Faculty Association supports her bill. The association, which represents 29,000 faculty members at California State University, has said the university's proposal is overly broad, allowing classes on social justice when the aim should be teaching students about the experiences of minorities and people of color in the U.S.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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