CALIFORNIA—On Thursday, June 18, the California Senate passed a bill by a vote of 30 to 5 that would make ethnic studies a graduation requirement for all students at the 23 Cal State University (CSU) campuses.

The bill has been in the Senate chamber for over a year, but the discussion regarding ethnic studies in schools started in 2014 when Chancellor Timothy P. White formed a statewide committee named the CSU Task Force on the Advancement of Ethnic Studies. One of the task force’s 10 recommendations was to make ethnic studies a general education requirement for the whole CSU system.

“Ethnic studies courses play an important role in building an inclusive multicultural democracy,” states the text of the bill.

The Ethnic Studies bill would require Cal State University campuses, starting during the 2021-22 academic year, to offer courses focused on race and ethnicity with a focus on Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinx Americans. Students would have to take at least one three-credit class in order to graduate.

Supporters of the bill have seen a greater urgency for it, in the wake of the death of George Floyd, to help students better understand the experiences of marginalized communities.

Critics oppose the bill because they believe that the legislature should not interfere with what courses colleges offer. In particular, Cal State University is in the process of passing reforms that would result in students taking classes about many marginalized groups not just African Americans.

San Francisco State has a long history of ethnic studies, offering undergraduate degrees in Africana Studies, American Indian Studies, Asian American Studies, Latina/Latino Studies, and Race and Resistance Studies. Therefore, SF State students will have many classes to choose from to meet the new requirements. 

The bill has to be reviewed by the Assembly before being sent to the Governor’s desk.