For those who wonder why some colleges are developing “proficiency ratings”, look no farther than California State University –  State Los Angeles.

Instead of focusing on teaching marketable skills, its professors just voted to require all students to take a course in race or ethnicity.  However, they but fail to adopt the proposal that course be taught in ethnic studies department. Inside Higher Ed’s Colleen Flaherty has the details.

Part ideological debate and part departmental turf war, a multiple-week conflict at California State University at Los Angeles has ended in the following resolution: Students will be required to take one course on race or ethnicity but they need not find that course in an ethnic studies department. The Academic Senate decision followed at-times-heated discussions among faculty and student protesters about just what diversity is and who should be teaching about it.

Faculty on both sides of the debate said the controversy helped open up dialogue about race on campus like never before.

“Clearly we face a long road with our colleagues, who demonstrated in the debate that they don’t understand ethnic studies as a discipline,” said Beth Baker-Cristales, head of Cal State Los Angeles’s Latin American studies department. But, she said, “I’ve been on campus 12 years now and this is the most meaningful and honest conversation about race we’ve ever had. That’s the wider success, the more important success.”

….The newly proposed language says students who have successfully completed diversity courses will be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of theoretical and practical factors of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, socioeconomic class, disability, sexuality, religion or age.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the intersectionality of these factors, with particular attention paid to race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic class.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the diversity of intercultural and intracultural relationships.
  • Demonstrate civic literacy and an awareness of social justice that would enable effective participation in a diverse society.

Following that proposal, some faculty members put forth a proposal of their own: that at least one of the two required diversity courses be taken or at least cross-listed in one of the four ethnic studies departments – Asian/Asian-American studies, Chicano studies, Latin-American studies and Pan-African studies – specifically. That meant students couldn’t satisfy the diversity requirements in outside departments, such as history or sociology, alone. Currently, there are many courses in those and other departments that would qualify, as they focus on issues of race or ethnicity.