This decision does not come without criticism, most notably that the resolution was passed without ever consulting the CSU Council of Ethnic Studies, the professors who will presumably be executing this requirement. But what I did not realize was that this ethnic studies requirement is actually the culmination of 51 years of protests.
In a recent episode of the podcast Code Switch, they tell the story of the San Francisco State Strike of 1969, when Black students organized to demand that more Black students be admitted to the university and that the school establish a Black Studies department. They were later joined by Latinx and Asian students who also wanted to see greater representation on campus. While initially peaceful, the administration and the police began to respond with greater force and violence, arresting, injuring, and threatening the activists until the strike came to an end after five months. But the university did agree to establish the College of Ethnic Studies that year, and that decision led many other schools to implement similar programs.
I work primarily with students in California, and one thing I hear from many students and parents is the belief that the UCs are “good” and the CSUs are “bad.” I, personally, don’t believe there are bad colleges – maybe a for-profit school that charges you for an education you never actually receive. But in the context of nonprofit, public universities, every single one of these schools is equipped to provide you with a robust four-year college education that will help you achieve whatever you want to professionally.
In fact, the California State University system is nationally recognized as one of “top universities for social mobility,” according to the US News and World Report. This designation is given to schools that are exceptionally good at graduating Pell-eligible (low-income) students. In fact, 11 of the top 20 spots are held by CSU campuses including, Monterey Bay, Long Beach, and San Francisco State. This is particularly significant considering that half of the students who attend CSU schools are Pell-eligible, and almost a third are first-gen.
This is, to me, the most important work a university can do: helping people attain an education in order to meaningfully improve their lives. And in that way, not only are the CSUs “good” schools, they are actually great schools. So whether you’re a California student looking for a local and affordable option, or an out-of-state student dreaming of palm trees and sunshine, take a closer look at the California State University system.