(August 18, 2020 / JNS) California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law on Monday to require an ethnic-studies course requirement for matriculation from California State University (CSU), starting with the 2021-22 school year.
Spearheaded by the AMCHA Initiative, 90 education, civil-rights and religious groups had called on Newsom to veto the bill, AB-1460.
The organizations noted an important distinction between the broad field of ethnic studies—with its goal of understanding and celebrating the contributions of the state and country’s diversity—and the narrow field of “Critical Ethnic Studies” referenced in AB-1460.
The groups noted that vetoing AB-1460 was necessary because anti-Zionist advocacy and the promotion of BDS are an intrinsic part of critical ethnic studies; critical ethnic-studies faculty have repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to promote BDS and anti-Zionist advocacy in their academic programming and classrooms; and faculty support and promotion of BDS are linked to the harassment of Jewish students.
Jewish and pro-Israel groups reacted negatively to the bill becoming law.
“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 American Jewish Committee director of campus affairs Zev Hurwitz.
AMCHA Initiative co-founder and director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin told JNS that her organization is “deeply disappointed” that Newsom signed the bill into law and called on CSU to institute “safeguards” against “anti-Zionist propaganda and BDS.”
“It is unfortunate that the governor chose to dismiss the voices of the CSU administration, academic senate and many faculty members who called on him to veto AB-1460 and support CSU’s proposal instead,” StandWithUs co-founder and CEO Roz Rothstein told JNS. “We understand that there was going to be an ethnic-studies graduation requirement at CSU with or without this bill.”
Rothstein went on to say that “it is now even more imperative that CSU ensures the requirement is implemented in a way that uplifts students and combats hate, rather than reproducing the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bias of some prominent ethnic studies faculty members.”
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