SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Students going to community college in California will have a new degree requirement: ethnic studies.
The Community Colleges Board of Governors approved the new course requirement this week and made the announcement on July 13.
“As the largest and most diverse system of higher education in the country, we have an opportunity to break down barriers to equity,” Board of Governors President Pamela Haynes said in the press release.
The ethnic studies courses will focus on "four historically defined racialized groups," which include Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and Latin Americans.
The new requirement will also be in line with what is already required by the California State University system. Students only getting certificates are not required to take the classes.
Many students and faculty members at different community colleges are in support of the new requirement, saying that the courses will help educate and understand the history of racial injustice as well as current racial issues in the country.
"Ethnic studies provide a critical view and understanding of our society’s history of race, ethnicity, and class, and provides the framework to put today’s urgent call for racial equity and social justice into context, which ultimately helps our students to build a more informed, racially-just and inclusive future," Dr. Francisco Rodriguez, Chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District, said in a statement.
Students are also excited to take the courses because of the deeper dive into systematic racism that people of color face in the United States.
"It allows students a platform to share their personal experiences regarding their race or ethnic group, as well as take in and internalize the experiences of others," Emily Datta, a student at De Anza College, wrote.
She also mentioned how it could be seen as another section of history classes but with more personal and emotional approaches.
Other students talked about how the class is important to create meaningful change.
"In order to create change we must first be educated in the history of cultural oppression and it’s long term effects," student Zayra Huerta Camacho wrote.
But not everyone has such high regards for the new course requirement.
"This new requirement is going to create yet one more barrier for students who are trying to obtain their degrees and transfer to a university," Tamira Palmetto, Assistant Professor at Antelope Valley College, wrote.
She said that students are already doing much more than is needed to get their Associates Degree just to be competitive in transferring to a university.
Another person questioned whether or not the California Community College system had an ethnic studies department to create the classes in time for whenever it's supposed to start.
Despite some disagreement, the requirement will still be part of the California Community College curriculum.
There is not a specific start date for the new classes, but the goal is Fall semester 2022.