Faculty across California State University are calling for a series of reforms meant to advance racial justice across the 23-campus system, from requiring students to take a class in ethnic studies to disarming campus police.
The California Faculty Association, the union representing faculty across the Cal State system, on Wednesday released a report titled “Anti-Racism and Social Justice Transformation Package,” which also calls on CSU to create Black studies departments at every campus, offer free tuition to Black and Indigenous students, increase the number of Black administrators and close racial pay gaps across the system.
Spurred by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the association spent the past several weeks developing the report, which is also being released amid a dispute between the union and the CSU chancellor’s office over whether to require students to take an ethnic studies course to graduate.
“Some of the internal work we have been working on for some time, but now we want to move from just us doing the work to the CSU chancellor’s office and the campuses actually implementing this,” said Charles Toombs, president of the faculty association.
In a statement to EdSource, Cal State spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp said the four-year university system is “committed to working to address racial inequities” but added that “the tactics to accomplish this differ from what the union is presenting.”
Upcoming ballot measure
He said campus police departments are committed to community policing and pointed to the university’s support of Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5, an upcoming ballot measure that would repeal Proposition 209, which bans consideration of race or ethnicity in admissions decisions at the University of California, the California State University and other public entities.
The faculty union also supports ACA 5.
In the report released Wednesday, the faculty association also reiterated its support for AB 1460, a bill that would require students — beginning with those graduating in 2024-25 — to take a 3-unit class in one of four ethnic studies disciplines: Native American studies, African American studies, Asian American studies, or Latina and Latino studies.
Chancellor Tim White, however, is opposed to the legislation and has brought a proposal to the system’s Board of Trustees that would require students to take a class from a much broader range of disciplines, as long as the class has a social justice component.
“People will say, why fight so hard for one class?” said Theresa Montaño, a professor of Chicana and Chicano studies at Cal State Northridge and member of the union. “It represents the long struggle against institutional racism in society. It ties the institution of higher education to the community and the struggles within our community. It is an evolving dynamic discipline with direct connection to community struggles.”
The report also calls for Black or Africana studies departments to be established at all CSU campuses.
“We are a CSU for the 21st century and every campus in the system should have a Black studies department,” said Toombs, who is a professor in that department at San Diego State. “Universities that do not have it are not really keeping up with where we should be in the 21st century.”
The faculty association is also calling for CSU to reform the presence of police on campuses. Each of the 23 campuses has its own independent police department, and officers in those departments typically have access to firearms and other weapons
In their report, the CSU faculty wrote that CSU should “remove armed police from our campuses, and join CFA in exploring community based strategies as alternatives to policing that are based in community accountability and transformative justice.”
That particular demand comes as protesters across the country have demanded police reform following the police killing of Floyd. That movement has been felt in education, as activists in K-12 districts across California and in other states have successfully called on school boards to diminish the presence of police officers at schools. So far, the state’s public university systems have not faced major pressure to take similar steps.
Armed police are ‘terrifying to students of color’
Sharon Elise, the union’s associate vice president of racial and social justice and a sociology professor at CSU San Marcos, said that being around armed police “gives students a feeling like they’re in prison.”
“They all have access to weapons and this is really terrifying to students of color,” Elise said.
The union is also demanding that CSU hire more mental health counselors, close racial pay gaps across the system and increase diversity among administrators. The faculty also want campuses to prioritize increasing enrollments of Black students and are calling on CSU to offer free tuition to those students.
“We want this to be a moment where we just don’t talk about the issues,” Toombs said. “You know, when we have these moments of police brutality, everyone talks about them, but we really want to emphasize that the work has to be done to change the system.”
Story originally published by EdSource.