California State University System Adds Caste to Non-Discriminatory Policy

'This victory in getting caste protections is, though long overdue, also very historic,' said the lead organiser of the movement.

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Washington: A top university system in the United States announced that they will add ‘caste’ as a protected category, a move that has been welcomed by several rights groups fighting against caste-based discrimination in the country.

California State University System, that has over 23 campuses and eight off-campus centres enrolling 485,550 students with 55,909 faculty and staff, announced the addition to its list this month.

“The entire California State University aspires to uphold the values of inclusive excellence by creating an environment where all of our talented and diverse students and employees are welcome and encouraged to succeed,” Joseph I Castro, chancellor of California State University said.

“I commend the incredible work and dedication of the students, employees, and other partners whose efforts ensure that our policies align with our bold aspirations,” Castro said.

Also read: Casteism Is Rampant in Higher Education Institutions, but Is ‘Wilfully Neglected’: Study

“California State University is the largest four-year public university system in the United States. Adding caste as a protected category ensures that all 23 of CSU campuses are able to be a place of access and equity for all students,” Equality Lab said.

“We commend the CSU system for making history by supporting the rights of caste-oppressed students, staff, and faculty with a policy that ensures a caste equitable safe for all. We look forward to working with the CSU system to help implement this historic win,” it said in a statement.

“This victory in getting caste protections is, though long overdue, also very historic. It isn’t just the end result that is historic but the process itself,” said Manmit Singh from San Francisco State University student and lead organiser.

Prof. Dr. Sarah Taylor, chair, Department of Social Work, CSU East Bay said that adding caste to the mission statement for the Department of Social Work at Cal State East Bay was incredibly personal for their professors.

“One of our students brought our attention to caste discrimination as not being something that is happening far away, but something that is being dealt with daily by some of our students in their personal lives. We want to honour their lived experiences and advocate against caste discrimination,” he said.

Describing this as historic win Thenmozhi Soundararajan, executive director of Equality Labs, said that because of the tireless efforts of the student-led interfaith and inter-caste initiative they now have 23 new campuses who are joining the civil rights movement to protect caste-oppressed Americans.

“We are so proud of the leadership of CSU students, faculty, and staff who worked to make this happen. We also want to thank the California Faculty Association, led by the Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans (APIDA) Caucus, who worked to add caste as part of their contract negotiations,” she said.