The California State University system last week updated its nondiscrimination policy to include caste, making it the first university system in the country to enact such a policy, the Los Angeles Times reported.
While caste is banned in India and other South Asian countries, the system of social hierarchy still exists in practice, and some California State students of Asian descent have reported encountering caste discrimination on campus. The systemwide policy, which will cover all 23 campuses, will allow students to report anti-Dalit bias, or discrimination against what has historically been the most oppressed caste. The move comes after years of activism among Dalit students, including Prem Pariyar, a Nepali Dalit social worker and alum of California State University, East Bay, who first advocated for caste protections in the department of social work.
“When I faced caste discrimination within the campus and outside in the community, I felt very disappointed and low. I thought I had left caste discrimination behind in Nepal,” Pariyar said in a press release. “But I was wrong. I have been experiencing caste discrimination in every sphere of my life even in the U.S.”
Pariyar said the addition of caste into the nondiscrimination policy will let caste-oppressed students, faculty and staff members at California State campuses feel safer.
Joseph Castro, California State University chancellor, said in a press release, “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.”
Brandeis University in Massachusetts was the first American higher education institution to ban discrimination based on caste in December 2019. Last year, Colby College in Maine announced it had added caste to its nondiscrimination policy.