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CSU adds ban on caste-based discrimination to system-wide policy

The California University System — the largest four-year public university in the nation — will add to its school policy a ban on discrimination based on someone’s caste.

The move provides more protections to Dalit students of South Asian descent, with someone’s caste now protected under the CSU’s race and ethnicity anti-discrimination policy.

CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro lauded the addition in a written statement included in a press release from advocacy group Equity Labds. Equity Labs is a Dalit civil rights organization that works with students who face caste discrimination.

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

Dalit people are those who are at the bottom of India’s social caste system — one that’s estimated to be thousands of years olds — and who face discrimination and violence. They used to be called “untouchables” in India. Discrimination because of one’s caste status has been outlawed in India, but the practice continues, even in South Asian diasporas in the United States, according to Equity Labs.

The CSU system does not track the number of employees or students who are Dalit, said spokeswoman Toni Molle.

But Prem Pariyar, a Nepali Dalit student who attends Cal State East Bay and is an anti-caste discrimination organizer there, said he faced caste-based discrimination at school and in the community surrounding the Northern California campus, he said in the press release.

“I thought I had left caste discrimination behind in Nepal. But I was wrong,” he said. “I have been experiencing caste discrimination in every sphere of my life even in the US.”

But, he added, the CSU’s new policy will make him and others feel safer in school.

“Many caste-oppressed students, faculty, and staff members at CSU campuses will now feel safer and report any incident of harassment or discrimination by the dominant caste students and co-workers,” Pariyar said. “This policy strengthens our society.”

This subject has circled around school leadership for several years, with the university reviewing the policy for the last few months, Molle said.

UC Davis, in November, became the first public institution in the country to add caste to its anti-discrimination policy, the San Francisco Chronicle reported then. The Cal State Student Association has also long called for the CSU to do the same. It voted in favor of a such a policy in April.

“It isn’t just the end result that is historic but the process itself,” said Manmit Singh, a student and an anti-caste discrimination organizer at San Francisco State. “For months, students, staff, faculty, and community partners have been working under Dalit feminist leadership to advocate for this policy change.”

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Source: Orange County Register

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