Brandeis University adds caste to its anti-discrimination policy

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The president of Brandeis University announced Tuesday that the university will now include caste in its anti-discrimination policy. The policy change makes Brandeis the first American university to expressly prohibit caste discrimination.

Caste is the system of social stratification found mostly in India, but recent reporting by WGBH News found caste discrimination could also be an issue among Indian immigrants in the U.S.

Brandeis President Ronald Liebowitz wrote in a letter announcing the policy that any notions of inherited social class contradict the university’s founding principles of equitable access and inclusion.

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“Brandeis believes that since caste identity is so intertwined with many of the legally recognized and protected characteristics, discrimination based on a person’s caste is effectively the same,” Liebowitz said.

The policy means caste discrimination is now expressly prohibited alongside other protected categories such as race, gender, age and religious beliefs. It takes effect immediately.

Brandeis Chief Diversity Officer Mark Brimhall-Vargas said the new policy stems from a recent on-campus conference that focused on the caste system.

Brimhall-Vargas said the change will allow the school to address caste discrimination and remain dedicated to the campus values.

“While there isn’t a specific case that forced us to move forward, we want to make sure that, if and when, that case does come about, we are prepared to address it,” Brimhall-Vargas said.