Caste is now a protected category at the California State University (CSU) system thanks in large part to Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi American student, faculty, and staff activists, and CFA union leaders, who advocated for – and won – this provision in our new contract.
The CFA Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Caucus brought advocates together to discuss this change and its implementation during Equity Conference 2022.
The panel, “A Movement for Caste Equity: Addressing Caste Discrimination in Higher Education” included panelists Prem Pariyar, manmit singh, and Thenmozhi Soundararajan.
Pariyar, a CSU East Bay alum, and singh, a Chico State student, helped lead the advocacy campaign to add caste to the list of categories protected from discrimination at the CSUs.
Soundararajan is the executive director of Equality Labs, an Ambedkarite South Asian power-building organization that uses community research, political base-building, culture-shifting art, and digital security to end the oppression of caste apartheid, Islamophobia, white supremacy, and religious intolerance.
The panel discussed an overview of caste, how caste shows up, and is maintained in higher education spaces.
“As someone who is a Dalit student who went through California universities, I was someone who experienced very difficult levels of caste discrimination when I went to UC Berkeley,” said Soundararajan, during the panel discussion. “If I had a resolution as strong as the one CFA passed through both the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the larger change of the policy through the (CSU), maybe I would have been a Cal State faculty member today.
“To be honest, the level of discrimination and harassment you face as a caste-oppressed student, particularly if you were out – which I was – was too much.”
The video is available here.