Save the Breadth & Diversity of California State University Education
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November 7, 2017
Petition Opposing the California State University Chancellor’s Revised Executive Order 1100 on CSU General Education Breadth Requirements
We, the undersigned, emphatically oppose the revision of the Executive Order 1100 on CSU General Education Breadth Requirements (EO 1100), which was issued by the California State University Chancellor’s Office (CO) on August 23, 2017, and which has been vehemently opposed, to date, by the CSU Academic Senate , the Academic Senate Chairs of 22 CSU campuses, and the CSU campus Academic Senates at Bakersfield, Chico, Dominguez Hills, East Bay, Fresno, Fullerton, Humboldt, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Monterey Bay, Northridge, Pomona, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Marcos, Sonoma, and Stanislaus.
- We object to the unilateral procedure by which EO1100 was issued, as it violates the fulsome shared governance process required to reflect faculty expertise.
- We object to the substance of the curricular changes that EO1100 imposes upon the CSU, as it will harm faculty, students, and compromise the CSU’s commitment to curricular breadth and diversity.
- We object to the reasons that the CO offers to justify the imposition of EO1100, as they prioritize “efficient degree completion” over the meaning, quality, and integrity of the academic degree programs of the CSU.
- We object to the severely time-constrained implementation schedule that EO1100 imposes upon faculty and staff, as it suggests that the CO is more attuned to the pressures of outside political forces than to the needs of its students, the workload of its faculty, and the continuing efforts of faculty to meet student needs.
- We therefore demand that EO1100 be rescinded immediately.
- We demand that the CO and the CSU Board of Trustees issue a public statement transparently explaining the external political pressures that motivated the revision of EO1100 and the severely time-constrained and flawed shared governance process and consultation surrounding its issuance.
- We demand that a data-driven, collaborative analysis be undertaken in concert with the CSU Academic Senate and the Academic Senates of each CSU campus to assess the alleged need for system-wide GE curricular reform that the CO contends EO1100 is intended to address.
- We demand that the CO and administrations throughout the CSU reaffirm and reassert their commitment to and respect for the shared governance principles and protocols that are an integral part of the public charter, academic mission, and governing values of the CSU.
- We urge the Presidents and Provosts throughout the CSU to stand with us to defend the meaning, quality, and integrity of the academic degree programs of the CSU and the CSU’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, which EO1100 threatens to compromise.
- We demand the implementation of recommendations made by the CSU Task Force on the Advancement of Ethnic Studies (especially the adherence and continuation of the moratorium that protects Ethnic Studies from harmful policies and the establishment of a system-wide GE requirement in Ethnic Studies, which includes Women and Gender Studies and Queer/LGBT Studies) in order to better prepare students as democratic global citizens.
- We invite CSU faculty, staff, administrators, students, alumni, as well as elected officials and other concerned citizens and community-based organizations to join with us in opposing EO1100 and protecting the meaning, quality, and integrity of the academic degree programs of the CSU.
(1) Unilateral Procedure: The Construction of EO1100 Violates the Principles and Protocols of Shared Governance
CSU faculty and campus constituents have expressed serious concerns about the adequacy of the consultation, content, and timeline of EO1100, which requires vast curricular changes across the 23 campuses of the CSU. The hasty, top-down, unilateral construction and issuance of EO1100, composed during the summer break, when only a handful of ASCSU faculty representatives were available, violates principles of shared governance legislated and affirmed, for example, in:
- The Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act (1978), in which “[t]he [California State] Legislature recognizes that joint decision making and consultation between administration and faculty or academic employees is the long-accepted manner of governing institutions of higher learning and is essential to the performance of the educational missions of these institutions;” and
- The “Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities” jointly formulated by the American Association of University Professors, the American Council on Education, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (1966); and
- The Principles and Policies: Papers of the Academic Senate CSU (1999), which provide that the CSU faculty has the primary responsibility for curricular decisions; and
- The (unanimously approved) Academic Senate California State University (ASCSU) resolution on “Shared Governance, Academic Freedom and Principles Governing System-wide Initiatives with Curricular Implications” (2008), which rejects top-down administrative actions that compromise academic freedom and excellence and faculty curricular authority in the name of moving students through the university as quickly as possible; and
- The ASCSU resolution entitled “Objection to Unilateral Decision Making and the Pursuit of a ‘Culture of Compliance’ in the CSU” (2010), which rejects “the relentless move, over the past several years, toward unilateral administrative decision making and the pursuit of a ‘culture of compliance’ within the CSU…. where decisions are made and announced to faculty under the guise of consultation rather than regularly engaging faculty in decision making at the formative stages,” for the reasons that “such non-collaborative decision making obscures transparency, stifles public discourse, reduces opportunities for input from relevant groups and consensus building, … circumvents accountability, … violates existing shared governance policies and procedures and institutionalizes a culture of compliance that is contrary to the mission of the CSU as a public university and threatens academic excellence in the CSU system;” and
- The (unanimously approved) ASCSU resolution entitled “Reaffirming the Principle of Shared Governance within the California State University” (2016), which cites Chancellor White’s repeated display of contempt for the principles and protocols of shared governance as evidence that “the expertise of the faculty, and, in fact, faculty’s responsibility to preserve quality, is being threatened not only from without (for example, through continual under-funding; performance-based metrics; initiatives lacking evidentiary justification) but also from within.”
EO1100’s unilateral imposition of extensive system-wide curricular changes in the absence of meaningful consultation of faculty expertise reproduces a pernicious trend in public executive decision-making in the United States that displays contempt for scholarly and field-specific expertise and evidence-based policymaking. The insistence by the CO that the CSU needs to move forward at such a pace suggests that the CO is more attuned to the pressures of outside political forces than to the needs of its students, the workload of its faculty, and the continuing efforts of faculty to meet student needs.
(2) Curricular Assimilation: EO1100 Would Seriously Diminish the Breadth, Diversity, and Multicultural Content of Academic Degree Programs throughout the CSU
Curricular breadth and diversity are among the necessary goals of a university education, as distinct from, for example, a postsecondary polytechnic or vocational school. EO1100 includes provisions that will seriously diminish the overall breadth, diversity, and multicultural content of academic degree programs throughout the CSU, which will harm student development, devastate academic departments and programs, and ultimately diminish the cultural, social, global, and ethical awareness and competency of CSU students at an historical moment when such awareness is most urgently needed. These harmful provisions include:
- (a) mandating a reduction on many CSU campuses in the overall number of General Education units required for graduation (from 51 to 48 units) and a narrowing of GE curricular categories that will entail the contraction or elimination on multiple CSU campuses of GE categories devoted to Cultural Diversity, Ethnic Studies, Social Sciences, and Lifelong Learning and Self Development;
- (b) requiring that all CSU campuses permit unrestricted double-counting of GE-certified major courses toward both the major and the GE requirement;
- (c) barring students from enrolling in upper-division GE courses for which they have satisfied the departmental prerequisites until they have completed a minimum of 60 units.
We will explain in turn how conforming to each of these provisions would diminish the meaning, quality, and integrity of academic degree programs throughout the CSU and harm students, faculty, and society.
(a) Reducing and Narrowing GE
Compliance with EO1100 would necessarily reduce the Social Science requirements and reduce, narrow, or eliminate the Cultural and Ethnic Studies requirements in the GE programs of multiple CSU campuses. Since EO1100 leaves the total number of units required for graduation intact, reducing the overall number of general education units required for graduation does not serve the CO’s purported aim (see 3(d) below) of increasing the efficiency of degree completion. What the reduction does is to effectively enable high-unit majors (typically in the STEM professions) to swallow up more of students’ academic experience with the cost that fewer students are required to comprehend the emerging factors that contribute to a multipolar world order, or to recognize and understand the encounter, interaction, clash, and accommodation of various political, religious, ethnic, and gender groups and their contributions to past and present societies.
Such curricular engagement could not be any more urgent to civil society, given the recent upsurge of xenophobia, misogyny, and religious intolerance in the United States. To slash students’ requirement to engage with curricula in Social Science and Ethnic Studies in service to greater technical proficiency or political expediency exacerbates rather than ameliorates the violently polarized current state of affairs in this country.
EO1100 requires that courses that have not been taught within a 5 year period lose their GE standing. Currently, GE courses go through an ongoing recertification process to remain in good standing. The EO1100 provision unilaterally eliminates courses from GE even if they legitimately meet GE category learning goals. This policy, combined with enrollment pressures, is especially damaging for Ethnic and Cultural Diversity Studies departments/programs. The automatic elimination of courses from GE would lead to the reduction in the number of course offerings and in a reduction of curricular breadth. Breadth of course offerings is necessary to coherently define an academic field, particularly if the field is interdisciplinary as Ethnic and Cultural Diversity Studies are.
(b) Double Counting Major Requirements toward GE Requirements
EO1100’s requirement that all CSU campuses permit the unrestricted counting of major program courses as General Education requirements undermines the very purpose of General Education—namely, to ensure that students are exposed to a broad array of knowledge, understanding, and learning that is the core of a liberal arts education. EO1100’s double-counting policy incentivizes departments and students to significantly increase the number of courses that students take within the department of their major and correspondingly to decrease the number of courses that students take outside the department of their major. This will inevitably lead to significantly increased enrollments for departments with relatively large numbers of majors, and significantly decreased enrollments for departments with relatively small numbers of majors. Such immense shifts in enrollment, given the enrollment-centered budget model of the CSU, will also lead to corresponding expansions and contractions in the budgets and faculty positions of affected departments and programs.
Conforming to EO1100’s double-counting policy would:
- Seriously diminish the curricular breadth and diversity of academic degree programs throughout the CSU,
- Significantly weaken the CSU’s commitment to interdisciplinarity, the liberal arts, Ethnic Studies, and Women and Gender Studies, as many of the departments and programs in these fields have relatively small majors and so would experience significantly decreased enrollments,
- Devastate departments and programs that have relatively small majors but make essential contributions to the GE curriculum and to scholarly research (e.g., African American Studies, American Studies, Anthropology, Asian American Studies, Chicana/o Studies, Comparative Religions, Environmental Studies, Geography, Latin American Studies, Liberal Studies, Modern Languages and Literatures, Philosophy, and Women and Gender Studies),
- Compel the assimilation of the existing breadth and diversity of GE curricula throughout the CSU to the dominant major curricula,
- Cause significant drops in student enrollment, which for some programs would mean their end as viable departments, and would also result in a concurrent loss of faculty of color and women faculty on campus, in violation of the CSU’s stated commitment to diversity and inclusion.
(c) Barring Upper-Division GE
EO1100 would bar students from enrolling in upper-division GE courses for which they have satisfied the departmental prerequisites until they have completed a minimum of 60 units. College students, especially first-generation college students, frequently have little if any exposure to fields of study and career pathways that are generally absent from high school curricula and academic advising. Consequently, few incoming CSU students originally declare majors in fields such as American Studies, Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Ethnic Studies, Geography, Latin American Studies, Liberal Studies, Linguistics, Philosophy, Women and Gender Studies. Many of these departments and programs have thus focused large portions of their curricula in upper-division GE courses in order to expose CSU students (including GE-certified transfer students) to the breadth and diversity that defines a university education and is a hallmark of GE.
The CO expressly intends EO1100 to “conserve upper-division courses for the graduating seniors whose degree completion could be slowed without access to required upper-division GE courses.” However, the CO does not even claim, let alone provide any data to substantiate the claim, that the degree completion of graduating seniors is in fact being slowed due to limited access to required upper-division GE courses. Even if data did substantiate this claim, more benign, less invasive policies than EO1100 would resolve the problem (e.g., giving graduating seniors priority registration for upper-division GE courses).
As it’s written, the revised EO1100 would discourage and prevent students, especially students who are first in their family to attend college, from experimenting broadly and sparking interest in new fields and methods of study. Thus it would delay, and in many cases likely prevent, students from discovering these disciplines and the skills, knowledge, and professional opportunities onto which they open. This provision of EO1100 would thus amplify the harmful effects of the EO’s double-counting provision by diminishing the breadth and diversity of students’ education and by contracting the GE and major enrollments of smaller departments and programs.
EO1100 would further restrict student exploration and choice through the imposition of rigid unit designations that restrict the way that upper division GE category requirements may be satisfied. Currently, students are encouraged to explore and take multiple courses within a given discipline outside their own major. EO1100 disincentivizes students from taking multiple upper division GE course within a single discipline outside of their major. This will result in a drastic reduction of majors and minors in smaller departments such as Ethnic Studies and Philosophy, as well as a reduction in the diversity and breadth of academic studies that students are exposed to and may pursue.
EO1100 eliminates residency rules for the 9-unit upper division requirement, encouraging students to take courses at other campuses. The majority of courses in the liberal arts curriculum, especially Ethnic Studies and Cultural Diversity courses, are intentionally developed as face-to-face courses in order to enhance oral communication skills and faculty-student mentoring relationships, which are the bases of high-impact learning practices that lead to student success. By forcing Ethnic Studies units and small liberal arts departments to compete with other college and university campuses for student enrollment, the capacity of those units to provide an impactful education will be severely diminished, which will negatively affect the development and cultural competency of CSU students.
It is a disturbing and alarming truth that all three of the above provisions of EO1100 would severely diminish precisely those breadth elements of a university education that assist students in critically and historically comprehending and logically and morally objecting to the forms of racism, colonialism, misogyny, neo-Nazism, white supremacy, xenophobia, religious intolerance, pernicious ignorance, political polarization, and violence toward historically marginalized groups (including immigrants, Indigenous peoples, Muslims, people of color, women, LGBTQ people) that have resurged in the recent history of the United States.
CSU students deserve high-quality higher education that is characterized by methodological, conceptual, and thematic breadth and diversity. Society needs educated citizens whose perspectives are shaped by such curricular breadth and diversity. It is the job of a university to provide that kind of education.
(3) Baseless Justification: We Object to the Reasons Offered by the CO to Justify the Imposition of EO1100
The CO offers four claims to justify the construction and imposition of EO1100. The CO asserts (in many cases without evidence or argumentation) that EO1100:
- (a) “Clarif[ies] [graduation] requirements,”
- (b) Increases the portability of GE units between CSU campuses,
- (c) “Ensures equitable opportunity for student success,”
- (d) “Streamlines graduation requirements” or “facilitates efficient degree completion”
We object to the CO’s justifications as follows:
(a) The Clarity Argument
We are left to presume (because the CO does not actually argue for this point) that the CO equates “clarity” with system-wide “standardization.” However, standardization is not an intrinsic good, and curricular standardization across a system as large as the CSU renders individual campuses less distinct by thwarting innovation and the flourishing of curricular and research niches on particular campuses. System-wide curricular standardization levels the diversity of the CSU.
(b) The Portability Argument
The CO asserts that there is a need for portability between CSU campuses and that the EO1100 revision responds to this need. And yet, the data that the CO cites does not support this assertion. In fact, the CO acknowledges that “the transfer of upper-division students from one CSU to another is extremely rare,” reporting that “[o]f the 419,622 degree-seeking undergraduates enrolled in fall 2016, only 463, or 0.1%, had transferred from one CSU campus to another that fall.” The overwhelming number of CSU students who complete their degrees, complete them at the campus where they began their CSU experience. Increasing portability for 0.1% of the student body does not justify a system-wide overhaul of campus graduation requirements (especially an overhaul that will result in pernicious outcomes as EO1100 most certainly will), nor does increasing portability justify undermining the integrity and autonomy of faculty governance at CSU campuses (as EO1100 has done). These students can be accommodated without EO1100, since campuses are authorized to make exceptions and "reasonable adjustments" for students transferring within the CSU System. Thus, the CO’s "portability" argument, judged on its own evidence, is invalid.
(c) & (d) The Equitability & Efficiency Arguments
Article 1 of the FAQ issued by the CO in the wake of EO1100 states that EO1100 is meant to “facilitate efficient degree completion system-wide.” This argument crystallizes the overarching rationale for EO1100 as a whole, namely efficiency. We find the CO’s guiding star of efficiency, and especially its alignment with the claim that efficiency increases equitable opportunity for student success, to be of serious concern. Changes to curricula should be rooted in goals related to best practices in education, learning outcomes, skill development, and the higher educational needs of students, not on a model of efficiency that counts only the number of degrees in hand instead of the quality of learning.
The CO’s insistence on efficiency in the name of equity is especially alarming given the student body that the CSU has in recent decades typically come to serve. CSU students are overwhelmingly first-generation students, low-income students, and students of color. Research indicates that these students are much more likely to be products of a K-12 educational system that focuses more on pushing them through to degree completion than preparing them for future educational opportunities. This is especially true for Latina/o students, less than half of whom that graduate from high school are even eligible to attend a 4-year university.
For many of these students, the institutions’ objective of meeting graduation goals has overshadowed the need to prepare students to pursue future educational and professional opportunities. EO1100’s insistence upon efficiency in the CSU system will institute the same schedule of harms upon CSU students, diminishing the meaning, quality, and integrity of their education and degrees, and hampering their career prospects and life chances. Decreased quality in the academic degree program in the CSU does not advance the cause of equitable opportunity; and the CO has offered no data or rationale for how the EO1100 changes to GE align with any of the learning outcomes that form the basis of curriculum development.
Furthermore, even if the primary goal were to “facilitate efficient degree completion”, it is worth noting that EO1100 offers no data to suggest how or why eliminating requirements to the GE program (2(a)) or reducing the number of courses that students have to take outside of their major (2(b)) will improve rates of degree completion. It is disheartening that an institution of higher education as reputable as the CSU would prescind from scientific and data-driven analysis as a basis for policy and decision-making. There appears to be an assumption that obstacles to degree completion are connected to specific requirements that students are unable to fulfill. However, research and copious anecdotal evidence of CSU faculty indicates that the obstacles that CSU students face have to do with rising educational costs, balancing work/school/family obligations, and feeling disconnected from the university and culture.
(4) Draconian Timeline: We Object to the Severely Time-Constrained Implementation Schedule that EO1100 Imposes upon Faculty and Staff
The CO requires that CSU campuses comply with EO1100 by Fall 2018. This draconian time-line places significant and undue burdens on faculty and staff, and exhibits little understanding of the practices, policies, and procedures that campus curricular reform requires. The time-constrained implementation schedule also demonstrates a misunderstanding of the scope and extent of the impact of EO1100 not only on General Education, but on the distribution of the resources available to departments and colleges, the impact on lecturers and adjunct faculty, who teach the lion’s share of GE courses, including loss of work, effects on entitlements, and increased workload to revise existing courses as needed to comply with the revisions.
When an Executive Order (EO) is issued, time is needed to understand and interpret the changes and engage in clarifying conversations. Campuses also need time to discuss changes and develop appropriate curricular and pedagogic responses. CSU faculty are experts and researchers in their fields who must be relied upon when the system contemplates major changes in curriculum design. The revision to EO1100 did not arise from the fulsome shared governance process needed to reflect faculty expertise. We reject changes in curricula that do not originate through such a fulsome process. The draconian timeline of EO1100 suggests that the CO is more attuned to the pressures of outside political forces than to the needs of its students, the workload of its faculty, and the continuing efforts of faculty to meet student needs.
Original CSU Fullerton Signatories
Dr. Alain Bourget, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics
Dr. Gayle K. Brunelle, Professor, Department of History
Dr. Jon Bruschke, Professor, Department of Human Communication Studies
Dr. Kate Burlingham, Associate Professor, Department of History
Dr. Matt Calarco, Professor, Department of Philosophy
Dr. Benjamin Cawthra, Professor, Department of History
Dr. John K. Davis, Professor, Department of Philosophy
Dr. Kristine Dennehy, Chair and Professor, Department of History
Dr. Barbra Erickson, Professor, Department of Anthropology
Dr. Nancy Fitch, Professor, Department of History
Dr. Natalie Fousekis, Professor, Department of History
Dr. David Freeman, Lecturer, Department of History
Dr. Eugene Fujimoto, Associate Professor, Department of Educational Leadership
Dr. Erualdo Gonzalez, Professor, Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies
Dr. Alexandro Jose Gradilla, Associate Professor, Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies
Dr. Aitana Guia, Assistant Professor, Department of History
Dr. William Haddad, Professor, Department of History
Dr. David Hall, Lecturer, Department of History
Dr. Brady Heiner, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy
Dr. Andrew Howat, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy
Dr. Craig Ihara, Emeritus Professor, Philosophy
Dr. Volker Janssen, Professor, Department of History
Dr. Satoko Kakihara, Assistant Professor, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures
Dr. Elaine Lewinnek, Professor, Department of American Studies
Dr. Ryan Leano, Lecturer, Asian American Studies
Dr. Emily Lee, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy
Dr. Dom Magwili, Lecturer, Asian American Studies
Dr. Jonathan Markley, Associate Professor, Department of History
Dr. Daniel McClure, Lecturer, Department of History
Dr. Robert McLain, Professor, Department of History
Dr. Maged Mikhail, Professor, Department of History
Dr. Philip Minehan, Lecturer, Department of History
Dr. William A. Myers, Lecturer, Department of History
Dr. Stephen Neufeld, Associate Professor, Department of History
Dr. Angela Nguyen, Assistant Professor, Psychology
Dr. Eliza Noh, Professor and Coordinator, Asian American Studies
Dr. Stephen O’Connor, Associate Professor, Department of History
Dr. Jessie Peissig, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Dr. Jamila Moore Pewu, Assistant Professor, Department of History
Dr. Dana M Reemes, Lecturer, Department of History
Dr. Eriko Self, Chair and Professor, Department of Psychology
Dr. Shari Starrett, Associate Professor, Philosophy
Dr. Jessica Yirush Stern, Professor, Department of History
Dr. Mariko Takahashi, Lecturer, Department of History
Dr. Sora Tanjasiri, Chair and Professor, Department of Health Science
Dr. Jennifer Thompson, Lecturer, Department of History
Dr. Lisa Tran, Professor, Department of History
Dr. Yuying Tsong, Associate Professor, Human Services
Dr. Allison Varzally, Professor, Department of History
Dr. Mark Walia, Lecturer, Department of History
Dr. Martha Althea Webber, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Comparative Literature, and Linguistics
Dr. Philippe Zacair, Professor, Department of History
Dr. Estela Zarate, Professor, Department of Educational Leadership
Dr. Laura Zettel-Watson, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
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