Don’t cut ethnic studies

Nick Sestanovich
Nick Sestanovich

Budget cuts to higher education are unavoidable, and vital programs inevitably receive a large share of these cuts.

At past colleges I’ve attended, I have witnessed drastic cuts to music and arts programs, something I am opposed to because much of what we have and admire is a product of art. Now it seems as if ethnic studies are the programs taking a major hit at California State University campuses.

At several CSU campuses, class sizes are being reduced and ethnic studies majors are either being eliminated or absorbed into other liberal arts programs, according to a Los Angeles Times article. At Chico State, Paul Lopez, the Chicano studies coordinator for the multicultural and gender studies department, has been unable to teach some of his Chicano studies courses. He thinks it is problematic in a time of growing diversity.

“Demographically in California, Latinos became equal this year to non-Hispanic whites in terms of popularity,” he said. “By the end of the year, they will be the largest ethnic group in California.”

Lopez’s courses discuss the issues of Latino growth and decline as well as what impact they have nationally and internationally. He was surprised that at a time when diversity is increasing, such areas are being downsized.

That’s the problem. During a period when diversity is actively growing, the CSUs are not honoring it by cutting ethnic studies classes. I understand not everybody is going to take these courses, but they can teach students important lessons in a growing, diverse world.budgetcuts

I do not have a lot of experience with ethnic studies courses, but I did take a women in the media class last semester. I learned quite a bit about how women are stereotyped and how to think critically on issues like women’s rights. I assume it is the same case with a lot of multicultural studies courses.

It is good for students not to think in generalizations and have a better understanding of other cultures and, if they belong to a specific ethnicity, their own culture. That way they can understand why other cultures do what they do and learn what’s true and what is not about other ethnicities.

On top of that, these courses can serve as forums to discuss the many issues affecting diversity on a daily basis. They can be great vehicles for students to discuss their views on topics like political correctness and the portrayal of minorities in crime stories. It can even be extended to stories in the news. Students should be able to have a strong understanding of the immigration debate or the Trayvon Martin case so they can know where they stand on those issues. And they don’t even have to belong to another ethnicity to find value in these courses.

I understand sacrifices are always going to be made with budget cuts, but I wish ethnic studies programs were not being hit so hard. Perhaps the CSUs could make their cuts in areas where there is already an overabundance of the same courses, instead of ethnic studies. CSUs should uphold their commitment to diversity by placing emphasis on the classes that teach it.

 

Nick Sestanovich can be reached at [email protected] or @Nsestanovich on Twitter.

Illustration by Liz Coffee.