Defining Ethnic Studies and its Four Core Disciplines

Resolution Number
Assigned to
Curriculum Committee
In Progress
Status Report

The Chancellor's Office Ethnic Studies Task Force is working to address this resolution. 

Whereas, The completion of an ethnic studies course—i.e., African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Latina/o American Studies, or Native American Studies— becomes a graduation requirement for all California State University baccalaureate degrees starting in Fall 2021 due to the passage of AB1460 (Weber 2019);

Whereas, Ethnic studies departments were autonomously established in 1968, becoming part of the curriculum of the University of California, California State University, and California Community Colleges systems, as evidenced by the establishment of departments, programs, and curriculum in course catalogs, schedules, and offerings, with faculty requirements officially listed in the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Minimum Qualifications for Faculty and Administrators in California Community Colleges handbook;

Whereas, With the recent passage of AB 1460, misunderstanding and infringement by non-ethnic studies faculty have arisen in the California Community Colleges system about the definition of ethnic studies, attempting to reduce it to a concept and confusing it with a social justice concept, and such confusion has allowed for attempts at encroachment upon ethnic studies by disciplines whose theoretical foundations and competencies lie in other disciplines with different foundational histories, frameworks, and epistemologies; and

Whereas, The recognition of ethnic studies as clearly defined and valid disciplines allows for the growth of ethnic studies disciplines within the California Community Colleges system in ways that align with current graduation requirements being established by the CSUs that recognize the autonomy of ethnic studies departments, programs, or combined administrative units with multiple departments as distinct disciplines and departments or programs conceived and referred to as a shared initiative;

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges recognize, for the purposes of graduation and general education requirements, that ethnic studies is defined as an interdisciplinary and comparative study of race, ethnicity, and culture in the United States, with specific emphasis on four historically defined racialized core groups—Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Latina and Latino Americans—and that ethnic studies is offered through ethnic studies departments and programs, with disciplines focusing on the four autonomous core groups—including Chicana/o Studies, Latina/o Studies, La Raza Studies, African American Studies, Black Studies, Africana Studies, Native American Studies, American Indian Studies, Asian American Studies, Pacific Islander Studies, Filipino American Studies, and Central American Studies 1—each having distinct epistemologies, theories, and methodologies that center a critical ethnic studies lens and present this definition through a position paper by the Spring 2023 Plenary Session; and

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges advocate that the definition of ethnic studies be written into the Program and Course Approval Handbook to support ASCCC Resolution 9.03 F20.


1. Central American Studies in the context Ethnic Studies focuses on the experience of Central Americans in the United States. Students can earn a BA in Central American Studies that grew out of Chicana/o Studies at California State University, Northridge. East Los Angeles College houses Central American Studies in the Chicana and Chicano Studies. The Cesar Chavez Chicana/o and Central American Studies Department is housed at UCLA. Be it clear, that in this context, Central American Studies is not Latin American Studies