Has the CSU Forgotten Its Mission? The Decline of Ethnic Studies in California

Carla

“L.A. Times” reporter, Carla Rivera, interviewing students in ASAM 120, at CSU Long Beach (Oct. 17, 2013).

Has the CSU Forgotten Its Mission?  The Decline of Ethnic Studies in California 

by Teri Shaffer Yamada, CSU Long Beach

  ” The mission of the California State University is:

  •    To advance and extend knowledge, learning, and culture, especially throughout California.
  •    To prepare students for an international, multi-cultural society….”

In fall 2013, CSU faculty returned to campuses looking forward to a better year given their efforts to pass Prop 30 with its promise of stable budgets for the near future.   Instead, many Ethnic Studies faculty have encountered a reign of  “data” terror: a new administrative ideology that privileges the number of majors, course popularity, and fill rates over a broader vision of the CSU’s mission: to prepare students for a multi-cultural society.

Instead of promoting that mission, administrators across the CSU have stripped  courses from Ethnic Studies, even courses that have a history of full enrollment.  This administrative over-reach may be based upon a belief in a post-racial America, where  Ethnic Studies courses are no longer relevant.   Institutional efficiencies are more important; what is relevant now is STEM.

Concerned about this trend, over 50 faculty representing more than half of the system’s 23 campuses met at San Francisco State University on Friday, 18 October 2013, for the second CSU-wide Ethnic Studies Council meeting. Topics of concern included the downsizing, merging, or elimination of Ethnic Studies programs across the CSU; the treatment of professors of color in the system (1); how administrative ‘assessment’ of ethnic studies programs is being conducted without consciousness or value of the CSU’s mission.  Professor Maulana Karenga ( Chair, Dept. of Africana Studies, CSU Long Beach) stressed the importance of genuine shared governance on campuses and the contradiction of the CSU “using diversity as a marketing tool while dismantling it.”

The most egregious example of  de-facto program elimination is CSU Stanislaus, a designated Hispanic Serving Institution.  The remaining two tenured faculty in the Ethnic Studies program there “have chosen to resign their positions as of 24 December, 2013 rather than help with what they believe amounts to the elimination of the program they have put so much effort into.” (2)  The administration at CSU Stanislaus has refused to replace any of the four tenure-track positions the program once had.    Another example of forced program reduction has occurred at CSU Long Beach in the Asian American Studies Program, which offered 14 courses in Spring 2010 reduced to 9 in Spring 2015.  A new enrollment management directive apparently requires further reductions over a year in advance!  These reductions include ASAM 120 (Asian American History), a course that typically fully enrolls.

The results of the second CSU Ethnic Council meeting included the nomination of six delegates to visit Chancellor White on November 11.   Among their objectives for this meeting will be to report faculty concern over the CSU’s failure to fulfill its own mission to the people of California: to prepare students for a multicultural society.

 

Racial/Ethnic Makeup (California, 2010)

Racial/ethnic makeup of California as percent of total population, 2010

  • Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders make up 0.3% of California’s population.
  • Asians make up 12.8% of California’s population.
  • People of color make up 59.9% of California’s population.
  • African Americans make up 5.8% of California’s population.
  • Latinos make up 37.6% of California’s population.
  • Native Americans and Alaska Natives make up 0.4% of California’s population.
  • Source: U.S. Census 2010, U.S. Census Bureau

 

NOTES

(1) A report from UCLA suggests that the UC shares issues about racial bias regarding faculty of color.  See Stephen Ceasar’s “Study faults UCLA’s handling of faculty’s racial bias complaints” (Oct. 18, 2013).

“Nearly every faculty member of color had achieved tenure and professional success at the university, the report said, but they were still upset by the incidents of perceived bias, discrimination or intolerance they had experienced at UCLA.

Nearly all of them said they felt that the offending parties were never forced to face consequences for their actions.

The report states that UCLA’s reaction to such complaints has consistently been to attempt to placate the injured faculty member without repercussions to the offending party.

In 2012-13, African Americans made up 3% of faculty, while Latinos represented 6% and Asians made up about 17%. Whites made up about 73% of the faculty, according to the report.” Nearly every faculty member of color had achieved tenure and professional success at the university, the report said, but they were still upset by the incidents of perceived bias, discrimination or intolerance they had experienced at UCLA.

Nearly all of them said they felt that the offending parties were never forced to face consequences for their actions.

The report states that UCLA’s reaction to such complaints has consistently been to attempt to placate the injured faculty member without repercussions to the offending party.

In 2012-13, African Americans made up 3% of faculty, while Latinos represented 6% and Asians made up about 17%. Whites made up about 73% of the faculty, according to the report.”

(2) Oct. 12, 2013 letter to Dr. Joseph Sheley (President CSU, Stanislaus) from Lillian Taiz, CFA President. and Cecil Canton, CFA Associate VP Affirmative Action.


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