California Proposal for New A-G Ethnic Studies Requirement Underway


Abby Lee

In November 2021, the University of California Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (UC BOARS) presented a proposal to include Ethnic Studies as part of the admissibility requirements for UC applicants. The proposal seeks to amend Academic Senate Regulation 424.A.3, more commonly known as California high school subject A-G requirements, to include a course that emphasizes ethnic studies. Specifically, the proposed amendment includes the addition of an Area “H” to the existing A-G requirements. 

Currently, the A-G requirements must be fulfilled with courses in history, English, mathematics, science, a second language, as well as the visual and performing arts. Area H would build on the existing A-G courses, and would require that at least one of the A-G courses also satisfy Ethnic Studies seven course criteria and guidelines, such as “examin[ing] racialization as a historical and ongoing structural/systemic process” and “center[ing] anti-racism and anti-racist solidarity throughout the course.” For instance, a literature course that also examines the legacy of racism in literature could potentially fulfill Area H under the new requirements.

The BOARS’ Proposal for A-G Ethnic Studies follows its unanimous vote the year prior to include an Ethnic Studies requirement for freshman admission. Following the vote, a UC faculty working group of experts was called to convene by the UC Office of the President (UCOP) to provide recommendations to BOARS on course criteria and guidelines. These course criteria outlined the foundational values of the field of ethnic studies: the approved A-G courses should embody guiding principles to shape course content, as well as the skills students will develop for critical analysis of and engagement with the world. The proposal was presented to the Academic Council and circulated for UC systemwide faculty review.

Associate Director of Media Relations at UCOP, Ryan King, wrote in an email to The UCSD Guardian that it would be premature to comment on the potential A-G Ethnic Studies curriculum requirement as revisions are still ongoing. However, according to King, the Academic Council will review the proposal later this academic year. 

“Currently, after extensive discussion of comments received from faculty at the Senate divisions and committees, the Academic Council agreed to send the proposal back to [BOARS] for further consideration,” King wrote. “The Council expects to take up the matter again later this academic year.”

However, the UC system is not the first institution to begin to emphasize ethnic studies courses. Currently, AB1460 requires ​the California State University (CSU) to provide ethnic studies at all campuses, starting from the 2021-22 academic year. Starting with the graduating class of 2024-25, ethnic studies will also be a graduation requirement for CSU students. Currently, all UC campuses require students to take courses that center ethnicity and race to graduate. For instance, UC Berkeley’s American Cultures requirement necessitates that students must take at least one course that “also take[s] substantial account of groups drawn from at least three of the following: African Americans, Indigenous peoples of the United States, Asian Americans, Chicanos, Latin Americans, and European Americans.”

Reception to the new proposal has been mixed. In an interview with The UCSD Guardian, Roger Revelle College junior Rushil Pithia expressed their thoughts on the new requirement and what it would mean for future high school students. 

“[I]t would be good in terms of teaching people to be more racially sensitive and perceptive[,] but I wonder if there should be more specification on when a student would be allowed to take the course,” they said. “Because in terms of maturity level younger students might not be able to understand these concepts as well or get the most out of the course.”

On the other hand, some individuals have been strongly opposed to the new requirements. A petition signed by “nearly 2000 UC Stakeholders and Supporters” urged UC Academic Council members to reject the proposal for A-G Ethnic Studies. In the petition, signatories asserted that the proposal is “politically motivated, academically vacuous, and extremely harmful”.  

If accepted, this amendment would align the UC A-G requirements with Assembly Bill 101 (AB101), which Governor Gavin Newsom signed last year. AB101 makes California the first state to require California high school students graduating in 2029-30 to complete a one-semester ethnic studies course in order to graduate.

Artwork courtesy of Allen Chen for the UCSD Guardian.