California State University to require ethnic or social justice classes for graduation

PHOTO: Students walking to class on the California State University, Northridge campus in Los Angeles. PlaySTOCK PHOTO/Getty Images
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California State University voted to make ethnic and social justice studies a requirement for graduation amid ongoing calls for related reforms in the wake of national unrest.

The university's Board of Trustees approved the measure on Wednesday, marking the first change to the school's general education curriculum in more than four decades, school officials said.

Cal State, the country's largest four-year public university system with 23 campuses, said it hopes to create "a more just and equitable society" with the new curriculum, which will implemented beginning with the 2023-2024 academic year.

PHOTO: Students walking to class on the California State University, Northridge campus in Los Angeles. STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images
Students walking to class on the California State University, Northridge campus in Los Angeles.

"This action, by the CSU and for the CSU, lifts Ethnic Studies to a place of prominence in our curriculum, connects it with the voices and perspectives of other historically oppressed groups," CSU Chancellor Timothy White said in a statement. "It 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."

He said the one-course requirement "will further strengthen the value of a CSU degree" and create better workplace leaders.

The requirement can be fulfilled through a "broad spectrum of course offerings" that address historical, current and emerging ethnic studies and social justice issues, school officials said.

The course offerings will be grounded in the traditional ethnic studies discipline, the school said, and composed of African American, Asian American, Latinx and Native American studies.

The announcement comes as California legislatures mull a bill that would require ethnic studies but not social justice classes.

If approved and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, the state-backed requirements would trump California State University's recent measure.

The university's plan may cost between $3 million and $4 million, while the state's bill would cost about $16 million to implement statewide, according to the an analysis by The Associated Press.