Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY
Published 8:12 p.m. ET July 22, 2020 | Updated 10:03 a.m. ET July 24, 2020
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At a time of national reckoning over racial injustice, the largest four-year public university system in the U.S. has taken a major step to make sure its future students ponder the effects of systemic discrimination.
The California State University system said that, starting with the 2023-24 academic year, its 430,000-plus undergraduates will be required to take a course in ethnic studies or social justice. The CSU Board of Trustees approved the new graduation requirement Wednesday, the first significant change to its general education curriculum in 40 years.
“Our goal is for CSU students, from every major and in every workplace, to be leaders in creating a more just and equitable society,” Chancellor Timothy White said in a statement, adding that the new modification “will empower our students to meet this moment in our nation’s history, giving them the knowledge, broad perspectives and skills needed to solve society’s most pressing problems.’’
Those include police brutality and the systemic marginalizing of people of color, a point driven across by the hundreds of thousands who have protested across the nation since the May 25 killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Conway to reporter: ‘what’s your ethnicity?’
CSU said students will be able to meet the new requirement through one of a variety of courses, including classes that explore issues related to race, class, immigration status, police reform, sexuality, public health disparities, immigration status, etc.
“It’s grounded in ethnic studies, but it is broader, more inclusive, gives students choice,’’ White said before voting in favor of the change.
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The mandate, approved on a 13-5 vote with one abstention, met with some resistance from educators who felt those who teach ethnic studies were not properly consulted. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond voted against it.
But some academics also felt this plan was preferable to having politicians make the decision. That may still happen. The state Legislature is considering a bill to require ethnic studies, a more narrowly focused proposal that wouldn’t count social justice classes. If passed and signed by the governor, the measure would overrule the action by CSU.
The university system also made news May 12 when it announced that virtually all classes at its 23 campuses would be conducted remotely in the fall semester because of the health risks presented by the coronavirus. Several universities have made the same decision since then as the country as experienced a resurgence in cases of COVID-19.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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