Take a deep breadth

Take a deep breadth

The state of California is implementing new requirements in both the CSU and the California Community Colleges systems. 

The introduction of bills AB1040 and AB1460 require all college students to take at least one three-unit ethnic studies course before graduation.

Ethnic studies courses generally explore the dynamic, oppression and endowment that impact the four racial and ethnic groups accounting for two thirds of California’s population: Native Americans and Indigenous, African Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and Latina/Latino/Latinx Americans (including Chicano and Mexican Americans).

Bill AB1460 is the mandate published for the CSU system requiring students of any of the 23 CSU campuses to take an ethnic studies course prior to graduating the university.

California state governor Gavin Newsom passed the bill on Aug. 17, 2021. The bill will take into effect starting in the 2021-22 academic year for students planning to graduate and obtain degrees by the 2024-25 academic year.

The bill would be integrated in the CSU GE Breadth Pattern as a separate area from Area D: Social and Behavioral Sciences; instead labeled as GE category F, it will produce a consecutive reduction of a 3-unit course in Area D of the GE pattern. 

Bill AB1040 is a California Community Colleges requirement stating that an ethnic studies course be taken before transfering to a CSU. This requirement would enable eligibility for students to meet the ethnic studies GE graduation requirements for a CSU before attending and graduating the university.

The bill would also direct each community college district in California to require students to complete at least one 3-unit ethnic studies course in order to obtain an associate degree.

Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Donna Mae Villanueva said AB1040 has not yet been approved for implementation and that the process takes a while for approval.

“The legislation says that it would be in place by fall 2022-23 so our process requires us to start now,” Villanueva said. “Faculty have to write the curriculum and do their research, then it has to go through the curriculum committee and then through technician review. Once it gets approved, it goes to the Board of Trustees, then it goes to the state.”

Academic Senate President Barbara Anderson said that although the AB1040 bill has not been approved, the bill provides courses and opportunities for students to complete the CSU coursework before transfer.

“Many if not all of our students end up at a CSU,” Anderson said. “We, as community colleges, have the responsibility to provide the curriculum and all the key areas to support transfer. That is a big part of our mission.”

Anderson said that California community colleges are working towards development within curriculums.

“We’re still working to expand our curriculum to address the need so that every student, even though they don’t have to have it to graduate Pierce, then need it to graduate from a CSU,” Anderson said. “So we absolutely need to provide that to students. Even though the letter of the law didn’t pass for community colleges, the faculty and leaders of community colleges still want students to have that knowledge and breadth of experience in that course that’s offered. It’s unique to those ethnic studies courses.”

Sophomore Ashley Yakoub said she believes the bill would be a great addition to coursework within community colleges, including Pierce.

“I’m glad they’re doing it actually,” Yakoub said. “There’s a lot of people that take courses and they kind of go through it as their checklist. Once you take an ethnic studies course, it opens up your perspective on it.”

Yakoub said the idea of taking an ethnic studies course had already been put into action within her family’s education.

“My sister took a Chicano Studies course before she transferred to CSUN,” Yakoub said. “It really just made her more aware of the whole culture and how it is so popular in Los Angeles.”

Yakoub said she encourages the idea of learning about ethnic and racial groups.

“I think we should all learn it and get to know each other,” Yakoub said. “I feel like we’re so involved with ourselves, that taking an ethnic studies course really just opens up your perspective. It’s kind of a no-brainer for me.”

Anderson said she believes it is important that faculty are the drivers of the curriculum and that students influence that drive.

“I think I see the shift happening,” Anderson said. “When you’re in graduate school, I think you’ll see a lot more opportunity to explore and learn from, and not from such a limited lens. It’s really important that we open up that lens, and make sure that the fabric of the American experience is not just a single perspective or thread or color because it’s not. It’s so much more beautiful when you see everything woven together and are able to see the different stories and experiences, and value them.”

Articulation Officer and Counselor Cristina Rodriguez said she believes it is important for students and faculty on the Pierce campus, as well as the Los Angeles community, to be conscious of the diversity of the Pierce community.

“This can be a very positive way to move in a different direction and to learn more about other people,” Rodriguez said. “I think this is very important for students to be more aware of issues within different ethnic groups and to have a better understanding of ethnic groups, the histories and the current issues and challenges that they face.”

LACCD Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez, an advocate and sponsor of the AB1040 bill, sent out a letter expressing the approval process of AB1040. Within the letter, he wrote:

“The lack of a diverse curriculum and a racially diverse faculty are still major issues in our state’s educational system,” Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez said. “Without honest conversations about power, privilege, what we teach in our classrooms, who teaches our students, and our own leadership, we run the risk of further perpetuating the very inequalities and disparities that we see to disrupt and improve.”