August 18, 2020 — Los Angeles
American Jewish Committee (AJC) is dismayed that California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed AB 1460 (Weber) Under this new law, California State University students will be required to complete a course in ethnic studies for graduation.
The California State University System Trustees had developed a strong alternative proposal which would have provided students with a more inclusive range of courses to fulfil a broader ethnic studies and social justice graduation requirement. The bill signed yesterday selectively picks subject areas for the CSU system’s curriculum and excludes many marginalized communities such as women and the LGBTQ+ community.
AJC wrote to Governor Newsom last week, urging him to veto the measure. “The California State University alternative proposal would have helped safeguard against antisemitism as students would have had access to courses about Jewish studies, as well as classes about genocide, immigration, and social justice,” said AJC Los Angeles Director Richard Hirschhaut. “All students would have the opportunity to gain broader understandings of diverse dimensions of racism and bigotry. By neglecting the experience of American Jews, this law makes it even more challenging to address campus antisemitism.”
The AJC letter cited rising rates of antisemitism on college campuses and noted that an existing plan by CSU leaders would have helped broaden understanding of the Jewish experience.
“Given the political biases of the critical ethnic studies courses on college campuses, we are particularly troubled that AB 1460 could lead to further exclusion of, and discrimination against, Jewish students on campus, exacerbating a pattern of isolation and ostracization of Jews that has become far too commonplace,” said AJC Director of Campus Affairs Zev Hurwitz.
Last year, AJC helped lead a statewide coalition to advocate for the inclusion of a broader range of marginalized groups in the proposed California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum. But the California Department of Education recently released a revised version which excludes Jews and many other ethnic groups who are broadly represented in California’s diverse population. AB 331 (Medina), currently in the Senate appropriations committee, will make the California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum a mandatory requirement for high school students.