The institution stated on Thursday, that caste will be included in its non-discrimination policy for students, teachers, and employees. The policy, which was updated after a vote by the university’s governing council this autumn, also covered other categories such as ethnicity, religion, sex, and gender identity.

Brown University‘s Vice President for Institutional Fairness and Diversity Carey-Butler noted in a news release that while their prior policy already protected persons from caste discrimination, they “felt it was important to lift this up and explicitly express a position on caste equity.”

The caste system is an old Indian social structure that determines an individual’s work, diet, and even marriage choices. While many South Asian nations have eliminated the caste system, members from oppressed castes continue to face prejudice. Even in the United States, where Indians have become one of the most populous groups of immigrants, many continue to encounter slurs and microaggressions.

According to the statement, the Brown administration worked with students to create specific caste protections that would validate “caste-oppressed experiences” and give a “framework for reporting incidents.”

“Many caste-oppressed people remain ‘closeted’ about their caste identity in fear of experiencing retaliation or discrimination,” the students said. “The new language of the University’s nondiscrimination policy offers caste-oppressed students who may be hiding their caste identity an option to report and address the harm they experience.” Advocacy organization Equality Labs commended the university for extending “caste protections to its entire campus.”

“With about 15 percent of its student population being international students, the addition of caste in the anti-discrimination will protect both domestic and international students, staff, and faculty from the caste discrimination rampant across American higher education institutions,” the group said in the release.

South Asian students in US schools have suffered social exclusion on campus due to their caste identities. Other schools and institutions, including the California State University system, the University of California, Davis, Colby College, and Brandeis University, passed similar legislation earlier this year.

Two faculty members sued CSU, arguing that the policy will further increase discrimination against the school’s Hindu and South Asian communities. Last year, Harvard University added caste protections for student employees as part of its contract with the Harvard Graduate Student Union.



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