Academic Senate opposes CSU ethnic studies implementation

The Cal Poly Pomona Academic Senate passed a resolution opposing the chancellor’s interpretation and implementation process of AB 1460 during its Oct. 14 meeting, critiquing its failure to consult with the California State University Council of Ethnic Studies on all aspects of the proposal.

The opposition follows a memo issued to CSU presidents requiring campuses to implement the ethnic studies requirement under Area F, a new general education category, as a lower-division course.

The Chancellor’s Office also calls for a three-unit reduction from Area D, the social sciences section, to prevent an increase of units required for graduation. With six out of the nine lower-division units in the section used to fulfill the CSU’s Title 5 requirement, Area D3 would be eliminated under this proposal.

Jocelyn Pacleb, an ethnic and women’s studies professor and vice chair of the Academic Senate, led the discussion in favor of the resolution, emphasizing the detrimental impacts to the departments and faculty that teach courses in Area D3, such as the Ethnic and Women’s Studies Department and the Economics Department.

According to Pacleb, there are 13 departments that offer a total of 28 courses in the section under the current university catalog, which are all at risk of getting removed. Area F is also anticipated to significantly overlap with the American Cultural Perspective courses, a campus-specific graduation requirement. This would require the corresponding departments to undergo the referral process for these courses to meet the Area F criteria, which is yet to be articulated.

“It’s going to require faculty time and effort at a point where we do not have the ability and the full knowledge to develop such large-scale curriculum changes within the time constraints placed by the Chancellor’s Office,” Pacleb said. “I want to remind everyone that our role of senators of the Academic Senate is to be the official voice of the faculty.”

Echoing Pacleb’s viewpoints, Alvaro Huerta, an ethnic and women’s studies professor and senator, shared that the proposed implementation unintentionally gears focus away from its objective to diversify the curriculum by creating division among colleagues while supplying unnecessary confusion.

Though the motive was to diversity the curriculum to represent the diverse student body, the faculty are finding themselves in a situation where there are “winners and losers,” according to Huerta. Through the implementation, some faculty members in various departments are expected to lose their lecture classes and potentially their jobs.

“This is something that’s going against our belief of having a unified faculty where we can incorporate ethnic studies by working together to find something that works for all of us and the students,” Huerta said. “We need to be clear about what our opposition is because we’re the experts, we’re the faculty and we know how these things work.”

In a Sept. 16 statement, the California Faculty Association also showed opposition, calling the proposal an “ill-considered attempt to marginalize genuine shared governance and to override faculty control of the curriculum.”

The statement urges the Academic Senate of the CSU system and faculty to collectively decline to accept the chancellor’s directives.

In addition to the impacts on faculty, history professor and senator John Lloyd suspects the
implementation process to pose inflexibilities for students. With the memo demanding the ethnic studies course to be lower division, students’ ability to graduate on time may be affected.

Meanwhile, engineering professor and Academic Senate Chair Phyllis Nelson said the current
law does not allow for flexibility and requires CPP to make the curriculum changes by the end of the term to meet its legal deadline for the requirement.

“We need to have a vote on a curriculum on Dec. 2 to meet this requirement, but I don’t see this as the end of the discussion. If we need to make adjustments, the senate is here to do that,” Nelson added.

Sylvia Alva, the provost and vice president of the Division of Academic Affairs, chimed in
stating that she had the opportunity to review the early drafts of the implementation plans and believes it is “not that far off” from the requirements of the state bill. Rather, Alva emphasized the importance of acknowledging the law and the need to meet the requirements under the given timeline.

Addressing concerns from both the faculty and administration, President Soraya Coley expressed her understanding of the frustration with the implementation process. According to Coley, the student learning outcomes have been defined and operationalized by the campuses during her many years serving the CSU system.

“My understanding is that the statewide Academic Senate had leadership in working on the core competencies, but I just hope that we do our due diligence around these competencies for our campus,” Coley said. “That takes time and deliberation and understanding. And certainly, our ethnic studies faculty must be a part of that overall defining of the implementation.”

Some senators like Alex Small, a physics professor and chair of the Academic Programs
Committee, offered suggestions of alternative actions that the Chancellor’s Office could consider to avoid the burdens on campuses.

Under the current catalog, there are multiple ethnic studies courses being offered in Area D; thus, there would be no need to eliminate any of the general education categories or to establish the new Area F. Instead, Small proposed that students can be required to take an ethnic studies course of their choice from the current curriculum. Not only will this require less work for both the CSU system and the campuses, but it would also fulfill the legal requirements mandated by the state.

“The Chancellor’s Office chose the bluntest instrument they can possibly find, and in choosing
this blunt instrument, they basically eviscerated some social science departments. This is
completely inexcusable,” Small said.

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