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.


Chancellor White Visits CSU Long Beach in Midst of System Challenge

White

Chancellor Timothy White at CSU Long Beach, Monday, October 14. 2013

On a warm Monday afternoon in a packed Anatol Center at CSU Long Beach,  newly recruited Chancellor of the CSU’s 23-campus system, Timothy White, easily charmed the audience of several hundred faculty, staff and students.  The cleverly humorous Chancellor  spoke of his enduring optimism in the mission of the CSU, California’s Master Plan, and the unique quality and success of CSU Long Beach in spite of six tight budget years.  Fielding some tough questions with the grace of a seasoned diplomatic, his answers were compassionate and perceptive with an underlying toughness.

When asked about faculty concerns that STEM disciplines were being privileged over the Humanities, White responded that he hoped his own young son, potentially a future scientist, should also be reading the Great Books.  On the question of Ethnic Studies in the CSU, he mentioned it should be preserved  either as programs, minors, or departments.  He has appointed former CSU LA President James Rosser to head his task force on this issue.  The Chancellor’s Ethnic Studies Task Force is charged with investigating enrollment rates and other data for Ethnic Studies programs in the 23-campus system before a recommendation is brought to the Board of Trustees for a vote.

He thoughtfully fielded the question of CSU LB’s next president and the secretive process of his or her selection in accordance with a new system policy that shelters candidates from campus visits and interviews to protect their professional privacy.  White mentioned that he had been selected in much the same manner and that our culture had changed since the past selection of both Presidents Maxim and Alexander. Now there are more openings than qualified “A-Team” candidates.  He did state that if the final short list of candidates were all willing, a campus visit would be arranged pending approval of the Search Committee and Trustees.

Chancellor White takes charge of  the CSU as it emerges from a bleak period of budget cuts, with a technology infrastructure in need of massive update and investment.  On Sunday, October 13,  the  Los Angeles Daily News ran an article “Bottleneck courses resulting in students struggling to graduate” , which identified nearly 1,300 bottleneck courses causing student delays to graduation.  Thirty-four percent of the courses are Liberal Arts (440 courses). The CSU identified the biggest factor causing this problem as “a lack of tenured faculty.”   In fact, according to CFA LB statistics, there were 848 tenure-line faculty in June 2009 with 29,266 undergraduate students and 824 tenure-line faculty in January 2013 with 30, 931 undergraduate students.   Student enrollment has increased while the number of tenure-line faculty has decreased, putting an extra burden of university service on younger tenure-line faculty and underpaid adjuncts.   White was also asked about the 4-4 workload at CSU Long Beach compared to other campuses.  He mistakenly equated this with a collective bargaining issue.  Actually each campus can determine faculty course load based upon their budget process. This explains the lower course load  at CSU Channel Islands, San Diego State and San Francisco State.