In 1968, SF State experienced University-defining change. As racial dynamics in the United States changed radically, SF State students banded together to fight for a curriculum reflective of the diversity of the campus. After five hard-fought months of protest and conflict, the College of Ethnic Studies was formed in the fall of 1969.
To celebrate and honor its 46th anniversary, the College of Ethnic Studies is hosting a fundraiser Sunday, Nov. 8 to honor the achievements of the college, its founders and alumni, according to event coordinator and College of Ethnic Studies Associate Dean Amy Sueyoshi.
“It’s both to honor founders of the college as well as strengthen networks we have in the community with people who support the College of Ethnic Studies,” Sueyoshi said. “It’s important to have these events as a reminder of our past, the kind of struggles we’ve overcome and the struggles we still continue to address.”
As part of the celebration, there will be a live auction, music from faculty in the college and a keynote speech from actor and College of Ethnic Studies alumnus Danny Glover.
According to its website, the College of Ethnic Studies was created after SF State faculty and staff, in addition to students from the Black Student Union and the Third World Liberation Front, joined together to protest the lack of ethnic representation in the University’s curriculum.
“The College of Ethnic Studies has changed the University,” said Africana studies professor Serie Mcdougal. “It’s made the University more diverse in its curriculum and student body, and it’s helped the University achieve the objective of offering a diverse learning environment.”
From Nov. 6, 1968 to March 20, 1969, students, staff and faculty spoke out against the discrimination, misrepresentation and disrespect all ethnic students and staff experienced, according to the college’s website. Students and staff demanded that the University include American Indian, Asian American, Africana and La Raza studies in order to create a curriculum that more closely represented the campus community’s ethnic background, the website said.
With the college’s unique and storied history in mind, students, faculty and staff said they feel fortunate to be part of the only College of Ethnic Studies in the nation.
“I definitely feel privileged to be part of it,” said Latina/Latino studies major Leesa Lopez. “I feel like it’s been very empowering and very eye-opening, and it’s provided me with the ability to unlearn and relearn things about myself. I unlearned a lot of the oppressive things I internalized from having a very Eurocentric K-12 curriculum.”
The College of Ethnic Studies is an introduction for many students to the true history regarding the treatment of ethnic people in the United States, according to Lopez, who said the college has played a key role in providing her with a renewed knowledge of self. Lopez said she feels proud of her heritage and is now more empowered to succeed as a person of color.
“Before coming to State, I had a very narrow view of what my history was,” Lopez said. “In my life, (the college) has been very empowering. With learning these new things about myself, I was able to feel very empowered and it also really connected me with my community here and back home.”
The college has helped students think more critically about their ethnic culture and the important role it plays in providing a well-rounded learning experience unique to SF State, Lopez said.
“I believe (the college) creates a political consciousness that’s different from other universities,” Lopez said. “It moves away from Eurocentric ideologies and it includes voices that move away from Eurocentic views.”
Having an entire college devoted to the culture, history and struggles of ethnic people has given students of color the confidence to be a more visible and active part of the SF State community, according to Latina/Latino studies major Mercedes Flores.
“(The college) created a gateway for people of color to empower themselves and their communities through the institution,” Flores said.
According to Sueyoshi, national and local colleges have looked to SF State’s College of Ethnic Studies for guidance and inspiration regarding starting, maintaining and improving their own Ethnic Studies programs.
“I’ve been approached at least 10 times from other institutions asking me about how to start an Ethnic Studies department, program or curriculum,” Sueyoshi said. “We continue to serve as a resource for other programs that are just starting.”