Gavilan faculty mobilize to develop course offerings in Ethnic Studiesby Jan Janes on Dec 10, 2020
The passage and Governor Gavin Newsom's signing of AB 1460 spurred strategic action from the Gavilan College faculty.
The bill requires that students take an Ethnic Studies class as a graduation requirement at the California State University system. Beginning in Fall 2021, all CSU campuses must offer courses in Ethnic Studies and the graduation requirement of a three-unit Ethnic Studies class takes effect in 2025. As the debate between the legislature and chancellor’s offices was underway, Gavilan faculty acted.
Leading the swift response, English instructor Christina Salvin invited colleagues to an August 13 working session. Teachers representing five disciplines participated in a midday meeting. At meeting close, Communication Studies instructor Kelly Alviso and English instructor Kimberly Smith agreed to research the issue. They presented their findings, Ethnic Studies Purpose Statement and Supporting Data, in September, which was accompanied by additional research compiled by Salvin.
“Ethnic Studies is quite different from cultural diversity,” wrote Salvin. “Ethnic Studies is a discipline, and Ethnic Studies classes are taught by scholars in the discipline. Ethnic Studies has a foundation of understanding both race and racism in the building of our country.” By contrast, she noted that cultural diversity can be reflected in almost any curriculum.
After a meeting with Salvin, Counselor Rosa Sharboneau presented research on the core competencies of the Ethnic Studies CSU Academic Senate resolution creating CSU Area F, Ethnic Studies. Sharboneau also detailed the learning outcomes and curriculum review period Gavilan would need to follow to be able to offer Ethnic Studies courses by Fall 2021.
To better acquaint the campus with understanding the issues underlying Ethnic Studies, the working group developed a plan for a panel webinar representing six scholars in the area, and a tentative presentation date of mid-November.
Faculty were requested to review their current curriculum and to offer classes that could meet most of the Ethnic Studies core competencies. At department meetings across the college, the new CSU requirement was discussed. The shared concern: if Gavilan does not offer classes that fulfill the new CSU Ethnic Studies requirement, students will go elsewhere.
The working group developed the first draft of the Gavilan College Academic Senate Ethnic Studies Resolution and brought it to the Academic Senate October 2. Salvin gave the group a brief history of her initial campus outreach after the CSU requirement was announced.
“Since I sent that email, I’ve been hosting meetings about Ethnic Studies,” she told the Academic Senate members. “We’ve done some work around it, different people show up. There is so much interest about Ethnic Studies at Gavilan.”
Salvin explained that the draft resolution is a conversation starter. “There are a lot of people with no idea what Ethnic Studies is. Who think they can just add a unit on Ethnic Studies and then think they’re teaching Ethnic Studies.”
Discussing the draft resolution, Salvin chose to start with the last item, which supports the immediate hiring of one full-time faculty to teach Ethnic Studies, and to work toward developing an Ethnic Studies program at Gavilan by 2022.
“This is important on so many levels because, at Gavilan right now, we don’t have a teacher who has an Ethnic Studies degree,” she said. “This is going to take a while. Nobody’s demanding that anything necessarily happen immediately. The teeth of the resolution is having that commitment.”
“It should be a dedicated program,” Salvin told the Senate. “Students do better when they take Ethnic Studies classes.”
Questions about realigning existing classes to fit more in line with Ethnic Studies rather than just cultural diversity were raised. It was acknowledged that, even at the CSU level, the guidelines of what classes meet the graduation requirement are still in flux. The Senate asked that the resolution be discussed again at an upcoming meeting.
Aware of the rapid response required to have timely first readings at the Curriculum Committee, faculty across anthropology, communication studies, English, history, music and sociology updated their curriculum and cross-listed it as Ethnic Studies classes. On November 30, Gavilan’s Curriculum Committee reviewed nine new Ethnic Studies courses.
On December 2, the Academic Senate approved the Ethnic Studies Resolution, presenting it as a recommendation to the Gavilan College Board of Trustees December 8.