Cal State Bakersfield officials are praising the CSU board of trustees for its vote earlier this week approving an ethnic studies and social justice general education requirement for students.
This marks the first significant change to the CSU’s general education requirements in 40 years.
“I am so proud that the CSU system is such a champion of diversity and social justice and has risen to meet this moment,” President Lynnette Zelezny said in a statement. “As the largest public higher education system in the nation, the CSU continues to lead the way in transforming the lives of our students and helping them become leaders in our communities.”
The one-course requirement will be implemented in the 2023-24 school year, allowing time for faculty on 23 campuses to develop plans and coursework that best meet the needs of students and communities. Grounded in the traditional Ethnic Studies discipline, comprised of African American, Asian American, Latinx and Native American studies, the requirement could be fulfilled by a traditional ethnic studies course or courses focused on social justice or social movements.
Zelezny and Provost Vernon Harper said the board's action is consistent with CSUB’s ongoing commitment to inclusion and equity. Some of those efforts include the planned creation of an ethnic studies department and initiatives to improve retention and provide opportunities for students of color, particularly Black males.
“As a Black educator, the issue of inclusion and equity is a personal one for me, and for our university,” Harper said. “CSUB President Emeritus Horace Mitchell helped lead the CSU’s initial efforts in exploring the adoption of an ethnic studies requirement. Dr. Mitchell carried with him the hopes of all CSUB faculty and staff that one day the contributions of all Californians would be studied. My colleagues and I are incredibly moved that that day has arrived."
“CSUB strives to be a beacon to all members of our community, and our student population reflects the diversity of our region. But we recognize that the nation is embracing a moment in the history of social justice and racial equity, and we are part of that. Our students want all voices to be heard, and we couldn’t agree more,” Harper added.