On Tuesday, Feb. 20, a forum was hosted on Ethnic Studies here at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB). The members of the panel who spoke at the forum are members of the Ethnic Studies planning group. About 100 people attended the forum which included members from the community, as well from both local high schools and local community colleges.
“I was energized by the event,” said Professor Maria Villasenor, one of the organizers and faculty leaders of the Ethnic Studies working group. “The speakers highlighted the value of Ethnic Studies for students and society, and the student attendees expressed interest in and enthusiasm for the idea of greater access to Ethnic Studies curriculum at CSUMB.”
Ethnic Studies is an interdisciplinary field that studies chiefly race, ethnicity, sexuality and gender as expressed by society, the state and individuals. Christine Sleeter, an activist and a retired founding faculty member, spoke on Ethnic Studies.
“Tucson had a K—12 Ethnic Studies and particularly Mexican- American studies program for several years. The state legislature made up of people like [Donald Trump] decided to ban Ethnic Studies because they thought it was teaching sedition—overthrow of the U.S. government-—it wasn’t. But when that was happening, the teachers in the Mexican-American studies program contacted the teacher’s union, the National Education Association (NEA), for help and the NEA didn’t know what the research says about the impact of Ethnic Studies, so they weren’t sure how to help so they contacted me to see if I would review the research on the impact of Ethnic Studies,” said Sleeter.
Sleeter’s research consistently found that when students take Ethnic Studies classes, their attitudes towards race consistently improved.
CSUMB does not have an Ethnic Studies major or minor. But, the main goal of this forum wasn’t the creation of a major or minor, it was about creating a GE requirement that requires students to take an Ethnic Studies course. It wouldn’t be an additional course that students are required to take, but a class that would be woven into our curriculum through double counting as both another GE course or as part of a student’s major.
Organizers agreed that they are interested in creating a minor using courses already offered at CSUMB. The creation of a major, however, is considered a more difficult task. Concerns were brought up about staffing and the school’s ability to be able to offer a well-rounded Ethnic Studies major.
“The Ethnic Studies planning group, consisting of staff, faculty and students, is working on a proposal for a new Ethnic Studies minor,” said Villasenor. “…and, we are excited!”