Brown University becomes first Ivy League school to ban discrimination based on Hindu castes

"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."

Updated: December 8, 2022 - 4:48pm

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Brown University has become the first Ivy League institution to ban discrimination on the basis of caste, after its governing body voted to approve changes to the school's existing nondiscrimination policies.

The Corporation of Brown University announced in December, that it adopted changes to include caste as a protected category after reviewing its policies earlier this year.

"Brown University provides equal opportunity and prohibits discrimination, harassment and retaliation based upon a person's race, color, religion, sex, age, national or ethnic origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or any other characteristic protected under applicable law and caste which is protected under this policy, in the administration of its policies, programs, and activities," the school statement now reads.

Brown Vice President of Institutional Equity and Diversity Sylvia Carey-Butler said "[o]ur nondiscrimination policies exist to ensure we're protecting people and to ensure the University environment is free of hurt and harm," per The Hill. "We have a long-standing commitment to this work, and it is engrained into the fabric of who we are."

With its origins in India and the Hindu religion, the caste system classifies people into socio-economic and theological groupings and is also practiced in other parts of southwest Asia. The Indian government formally bans caste discrimination.

The South Asian community maintains a sizeable presence in higher academia and students of that background have attested to experiences of discrimination by fellow students due to their castes. Brown University students celebrated the decision in a statement, saying "Many caste-oppressed people remain 'closeted' about their caste identity in fear of experiencing retaliation or discrimination."

"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," they continued.