Columbia University recently included caste discrimination as a protected category in its non-discrimination policy, joining a growing number of US schools that prohibit it. The action reflects a growing recognition of the oppression that those born into lower castes continue to face despite India outlawing the caste system decades ago.
The university’s updated policy prohibiting discrimination, which had race and ethnicity as part of its criteria, now also has discrimination on the basis of caste added to it.
Students from Columbia's Journalism School proposed to the University Senate to add the word "caste" to the university's non-discrimination statement and policy as a protected category against all forms of discrimination. Along with the policy change, students also want the university to set up a system for students to report caste discrimination.
In early March, Teachers College added caste as a protected category in its discrimination and harassment policy, becoming the first Columbia-affiliated school to add this protection.
The move is part of a growing trend of institutions in the United States recognizing caste-based discrimination as an issue of concern. Brandeis University, a private research university in Massachusetts, became the first American University to ban caste discrimination in December 2019. The University of California, Davis, in November 2021 codified the social system of caste as a protected category under its anti-discrimination policy. Another significant development came in December 2021, as Harvard became the first Ivy League university to recognize caste-based discrimination as a protected category for all graduate and undergraduate bodies.
There are a total of 26 schools and universities that have recognized caste-based discrimination as an issue of concern, and with Columbia University added to the list, the fight against caste discrimination is only set to gain further traction in the U.S.
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