California State Senate Passes AB 1460 

Thursday, June 18, 2020

AB 1460: California State University: Graduation Requirement: Ethnic Studies passed in the California State Senate with a vote of 30–5. AB 1460 requires undergraduates to complete a minimum of one three-unit course in Ethnic Studies to graduate, effective beginning with students graduating in the 2024–25 academic year. The three-unit Ethnic Studies requirement would pose few challenges for students who are already charged to complete 120 units to graduate, as many Ethnic Studies courses already fulfill pre-existing GE requirements. 

 

Authored by Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber and sponsored by the California Faculty Association (CFA), AB 1460 reflects 50 years of student, faculty, and community advocacy for curriculum reflective of and pedagogy responsive to the diverse demographic of the state. California senators cited that education scholarship has well documented the positive academic outcomes for both students of color and white students who enroll in Ethnic Studies courses, as well as the need for the California State University (CSU)—the largest and among the most diverse four-year postsecondary systems in the United States—to equip students with the critical thinking and social skill sets to empathetically serve California and the nation at large. Senators also made a clear distinction between Ethnic Studies and diversity or multicultural studies, in which the former facilitates explicit conversations on race. 

 

While opponents noted a desire to avoid legislative interference in CSU faculty governance, as well as impending COVID-19-facilitated budget constraints, proponents acknowledged historical failure of the CSU-system to institutionalize inclusive curriculum, the sociopolitical urgency of the moment elevated by the Black Lives Matter movement, and the long-term social benefit that would outweigh any short-term budget limitations. Further, proponents pointed to the fact that AB 1460 was student- and community-driven and its passage would be akin to civil rights efforts of the past. 

 

The passage of AB 1460 comes on the heels of a multi-year effort by the CSU Council on Ethnic Studies (CSUCES) and the CFA, and on-the-ground organizing by Ethnic Studies students, faculty, and numerous community organizations. Such efforts were often in conflict with the CSU Chancellor’s Office and Academic Senate of the California State University (ASCSU), which actively opposed AB 1460. In moving forward, it is our hope that the CSU Chancellor’s Office and ASCSU meaningfully collaborate with the CSUCES and CFA to encourage Governor Newsom to sign AB 1460, and to work towards a successful implementation of a CSU Ethnic Studies graduation requirement.