Faculty, students address state hearing on Black and Ethnic Studies in the CSU

CFA Vice President-elect Charles Toombs, Professor and Chair of Africana Studies at San Diego State, told a packed hearing room at the State Capitol last week, “In a time when our students are more diverse, Ethnic Studies is marginalized in the CSU.”

As a result, he said, “Our programs are struggling.”

The hearing, which was attended by students and faculty from all over California, was held under the auspices of the California Legislative Black Caucus. Assemblymembers Dr. Shirley Weber, a former CSU faculty member, and Kevin McCarty took testimony from the public and from expert panels, which included Toombs, and Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor and Chair of Africana Studies at Cal State Long Beach.

Impassioned testimony described the role Ethnic Studies plays in student success in college and in life. Cal State Los Angeles student Antionette TinaMarie Saddler testified that the Pan African Studies Department lends her a sense of belonging and support on campus that helps her throughout her studies.

Aliyah Hauer, also a Cal State L.A. student, pointed out, “Ethnic Studies is for the entire student body” of her campus, offering classes that prepare all graduating students for the world in which we live.

Toombs and CSU East Bay Professor Nick Baham questioned the seriousness of the intent to implement recommendations in the July 2016 report of the CSU Task Force on the Advancement of Ethnic Studies. The 10 recommendations include hiring more faculty to teach ethnic studies and to retain those teaching it now.

Assemblywoman Weber expressed interest in making sure the recommendations are implemented in a meaningful way, and commented, “California should be proud of the fact that it’s the home of Ethnic Studies and should be willing to invest in it.”

Regarding faculty hiring and the decline in tenure density in the CSU, Weber commented, “When you have faculty who are part time yet don’t have time to mentor students and work with students, you diminish the ability of the university to be a world-class university.”