Moving Forward with AB 1460, the Ethnic Studies GE Requirement

Sent: October 2, 2020

From: Vincent J. Del Casino, Jr., Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Dear Colleagues,

I hope this email finds you well and safe. I am writing today in regards to the passage of AB 1460, which mandates a new graduation requirement in Ethnic Studies for all CSU undergraduate students who will graduate in 2024-2025. This bill has a direct impact on Title 5, the overarching law that governs the CSU, and the Chancellor’s Office (CO) of the CSU must now get to work integrating AB 1460 into Title 5.

As many of you probably know, the CO had already passed a version of an Ethnic Studies and Social Justice requirement this past July. With that new requirement, they amended Title 5 to include a new General Education area for Ethnic Studies - Area F - and implemented a required reduction in lower division Area D (Social Science) from 9 units to 6 units. These changes were a result, in part, of mandating a new graduation requirement without adding units to the degree. AB 1460 narrows the scope of the Area F requirement while also fitting into the broader categorical changes that were made.

The CO outlines this major change to General Education on their website and provides some answers to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) that are now emerging as a result of AB 1460’s passage. In short, under AB 1460 the CO is to work in collaboration with the Council on Ethnic Studies and the Academic Senate of the California State University to define the core learning outcomes of this new requirement. I suspect that changes may be made to these learning outcomes over time, but these are the ones that we have right now.

No matter what position you may have taken on AB 1460 or the CO approach, this new law provides us an opportunity to have an important and engaged conversation about how best to integrate new Area F courses into our larger curriculum. There is no point in trying to hit the minimum bar here - let’s excel and take advantage of the amazing talent on campus to build not only an individual course requirement but a robust set of programs that continues to leverage the intellectual power of Ethnic Studies pedagogies and rigorous practices to strengthen our community.

I am not writing as provost today to say, however, what the course requirement should be or how it should be delivered. Course development and approval is the purview of the faculty. But, I am writing as a colleague to suggest that we already have the mechanisms to make this work and work really well. The Academic Senate will be voting on a policy change to add Area F to our General Education program in a few weeks, for example. The Senate General Education Advisory Committee can “appoint ad hoc General Education Review Panels (GRP)” to evaluate “a specific curricular requirement or set of requirements.” And, we have a strong group of Ethnic Studies departments, programs, and faculty across our colleges that can help guide the development of this new requirement. As we begin this conversation in our Senate and on our campus, therefore, we must recognize that this new requirement impacts all of our undergraduate degree programs although not in the same way. For example, we have managed to maintain engineering degrees that are only 120 units. This has been done by granting some exceptions in General Education. AB 1460 impacts those programs and thus those faculty need to be involved in the broader conversation.

AB 1460 does not just impact the work of the faculty and the curricular process. It also impacts the everyday work of the administration, which must figure out how to not only fund and offer this new requirement but how to manage the long-term budgetary implications of these changes. There is much work to be done in a short amount of time. And, there are lots of conversations to be had. We need to create a space for conversation even as we discuss some of the first courses that will meet this new requirement. After all, maybe this is a chance to demonstrate that General Education can be a site of an innovative curricular redesign that works past “the discipline” and toward the epistemic challenges brought by Ethnic Studies pedagogies and philosophies? Maybe this is an opportunity to present every single student with a “high impact” engaged learning experience that is rooted in the practices of Ethnic Studies? This requirement, which has been developed through a legislative process, does not foreclose our own creative and critical thinking about General Education.

I am personally excited about what this campus can and will do in this space. This is an amazing opportunity, even with some of its challenges, to think “broader.”

There is much more to come.