“Ethnic Studies Saved My Life”: CSULA Students Continue to Demand Ethnic Studies be a GE Requirement

Chicano activist Carlos Montes in solidarity with students at CSULA

Chicano activist Carlos Montes in solidarity with students at CSULA

For a third consecutive week, nearly 100 students and community supporters rallied at CSULA in support of a proposal calling for “Ethnic Studies” to be an integral part of the General Education (GE) course requirement for all CSULA students.

Although a couple of weeks ago the Academic Senate voted to oppose the inclusion of “Ethnic Studies” into the GE course structure by a vote of 29-20, students and community supporters have not been daunted and have vowed to organize while making their voices heard loud and clear in and out of the campus.

After successfully shutting down the Academic Senate proceedings the previous week, students and community supporters held a press conference (2/11/14) to inform the community of what is taking place at CSULA as well as continuing to lobby the CSULA academic senators to make Ethnic Studies a GE requirement beginning in the Fall 2016 as the campus transitions from quarter to semester system.

During the press conference, CSULA student Jelani Hendrix spoke about the urgent need to make “Ethnic Studies” a GE requirement, especially considering that over 80% of the students at CSULA are students of color. Moreover, Hendrix stated that “one class out of the forty we are required to take on this campus should be in Ethnic Studies.”

"Ethnic Studies saved my life" says student leader Lawrence Gandara

“Ethnic Studies saved my life” says student leader Lawrence Gandara

Lawrence Gandara declared “Ethnic Studies did save my life. I’m one of the first in my family to attend a university and I’m looking to graduate within a year, and I owe it a lot to Ethnic Studies, it really changed my life.”

Longtime Chicano activist, Carlos Montes affirmed his “solidarity with the students and the faculty” as they push to make “Ethnic Studies” a GE requirement.

Dr. Melina Abdullah, chair of Pan-African Studies, expressed how encouraged she was to see so many students, faculty, and community supporters in solidarity “to fight for Ethnic Studies as a required class for all students at Cal State L.A.”

Dr. Abdullah further stated that “Ethnic Studies helps to address the lopsided ways our students are taught in the K-12 system by giving them a knowledge base that is inclusive of all people which also embraces a pedagogy that leads to students’ success.”

Dr. Melina Abdullah, chair of Pan-African Studies at CSULA, speaks on the importance of Ethnic Studies

Dr. Melina Abdullah, chair of Pan-African Studies at CSULA, speaks on the importance of Ethnic Studies

As the press conference ended, students and community supporters walked to the Academic Senate meeting where campus police officers were stationed at the entrance of the Golden Eagle Ballroom in order to intimidate. Well-disciplined and organized, students and community supporters entered the meeting knowing that their voices needed to be heard.

Some academic senators yielded their time to several student speakers who used the time to urgently affirm the need to make “Ethnic Studies” a GE requirement for all students. Some academic senators who did eventually speak, publicly stated they were now in favor of the proposal to make “Ethnic Studies” a requirement after hearing students voices.

Still, though, some hardline academic senators were adamantly opposed with at least one academic senator reading two “student” letters that ultimately exposed not only racist overtures but ignorance of what “Ethnic Studies” is all about.

Whereas a couple of weeks ago some professors attempted to portray “Ethnic Studies” as an unequal academic discipline in comparison to others, this time around some of these professors coded their racism by now depicting this issue as one of student “choice” vs students “being forced” to take “Ethnic Studies” courses.

Unfortunately, throughout this process, the Chicana/o Studies Department has continued to oppose the “Ethnic Studies” proposal as a GE requirement as shown through several posts made on the department’s Facebook page and by their unwillingness to speak publicly at the last couple of academic senate meetings in support of students and community supporters.

As time ran out, the Academic Senate decided to adjourn and did not vote on the “Ethnic Studies” proposal as was expected. It is obvious, however, that momentum has shifted in favor of making “Ethnic Studies” a GE requirement.

The multi-ethnic coalition of students and community members invites everyone next week (February 18 at 1:30pm) to show support, solidarity, and unity to demand “Ethnic Studies” for all students at CSULA.

Academic Senate Meeting
February 18, 2014 (1:30pm)
Golden Eagle Ballroom
Cal State L.A.
5151 State University Dr.
Los Angeles 90032


cultural sovereignty

This entry was posted in Asian American Studies, Aztlan, Black Studies, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Identity, Chicana/o Studies, Chicano Movement, Community, CSULA, Cultura, Decolonization, East Los Angeles, Education, History, Knowledge, Los Angeles, Movimiento, Politics, Racism, Resistance. Bookmark the permalink.

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