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Cal State Los Angeles debates the meaning of 'diversity' in its GE curriculum

Luckman Center at Cal State University-Los Angeles
Luckman Center at Cal State University-Los Angeles
Steve Devol via Flickr Creative Commons

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Cal State Los Angeles has been working to the revise its general education curriculum for the past few years. One of the stick points that have emerged recently is how to best teach students about diversity, and what that term means.

CSULA currently requires all students to complete two GE courses that are approved as diversity courses. That requirement would remain the same under a new proposal. But at issue is what exactly constitutes a diversity course? That question has divided the campus.

Right now, these are criteria for determining what qualifies as a diversity course:

1. Diversity courses should deal with both theoretical and practical issues of race, ethnicity, gender, and class and provide a comparative treatment of no fewer than two internationally, nationally or regionally significant cultures.

2. Diversity courses should provide for a consideration of special needs, sexual orientation, language, religion, and age when appropriate.

Under the newly proposed criteria, students who successfully complete diversity courses will be able to:

1.   Demonstrate understanding of theoretical and practical factors of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, socioeconomic class, disability, sexuality, religion or age.

2.   Demonstrate understanding of the intersectionality of these factors, with particular attention paid to race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic class.

3.   Demonstrate understanding of the diversity of intercultural and intracultural relationships.

4.   Demonstrate civic literacy and an awareness of social justice that would enable effective participation in a diverse society.

Ethnic studies supporters want the school to make one of two required diversity classes be in Asian/ Asian American studies, Chicano studies, Latin American studies or Pan-African studies. CSULA voted down that proposal earlier this week.

Should CSULA reconsider their vote? Is the vote tantamount to diluting the importance of ethnic studies, as opponents to the vote claim?


Rita Ledesma, Chair of Child and Family Studies at CSULA and Vice Chair of the Academic Senate at Cal State Los Angeles

Melina Abdullah, Chair and Professor, Department of Pan-African Studies at Cal State Los Angeles.