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Public Comment on Quantitative Reasoning and Ethnic Studies
By Associate VP Sharon Elise to the CSU Board of Trustees

Let’s talk about the irony of the CSU advancing a new admissions requirement for quantitative reasoning that is prohibitive to student access while pushing against Ethnic Studies that is conducive to student of color success, in fact to all student success. 

Let’s put this in historical context.  We know, based on CFA’s Equity Interrupted paper, we have a pattern of diminished financial support for the CSU once demographics changed.  In short, once those students became students of color, and as we got less white, we got less money. 

This argument helped to sway the legislature and the governor to grant more funds to the CSU.

This was a significant gain in a state university system that turns away thousands of eligible students every year.  Perhaps this makes some people think that a policy change, such as an additional quantitative reasoning course, that would diminish the number of eligible students is not such a bad idea—after all, we are turning many away. 

For those of us in CFA, access and equity have been the cornerstone of our outlook on how we should serve students. 

Policy changes that will make it harder for students to access The People’s University seem to form a punishment regime that would fall most heavily on the most vulnerable:  first generation, second language learners, foster youth, and students of color.   

The support for an added requirement ignores what school officials say they can effectively provide, and this policy is also out of sync with what students need now.  Only roughly half of our school districts are aligned with current requirements.

Let’s talk about the irony that the same voices calling for an added quantitative reasoning requirement are opposed or silent when it comes to support for Ethnic Studies despite the wealth of evidence that these courses improve student performance and graduation rates.  In a recent article reporting data from the College’s Division of Institutional Analytics, majors graduating from San Francisco State’s 50 year old College of Ethnic Studies have significantly higher graduation rates than their peers. 

In her research review of The Value of Ethnic Studies for the National Education Association, Christine Sleeter explains that “Ethnic Studies grew from a desire to counterbalance both inaccuracies and the predominance of Euro-American perspectives that underlie mainstream curricula. Because of this bias, mainstream curricula contribute to the academic disengagement of students of color. Ethnic studies can reverse that disengagement…” 

If the CSU Board of Trustees and Chancellor share CFA’s concerns for advancing student access and equity, they will not create another obstacle to accessing the university as an additional year of quantitative reasoning would be, and they will support Ethnic Studies as the academic programs that have proven most successful for our CSU students.  Perhaps, if they themselves had had Ethnic Studies courses, they would see the value.  Perhaps if they themselves had suffered an education marked by lack of resources, they would see the QR as part of a punishment regime.