To promote equity on its campus, Harvard University has added caste as a protected category for all graduate and undergraduate student workers. This makes Harvard the first Ivy League school have a equity clause for its unionised student workers.According to Equity Labs, this decision will impact over 4,900 students at Harvard.
The landmark decision came after a strike and eight months of negotiation. Other campuses to have similar provisions for caste equity include UC Davis, Colby College and Brandeis University.
Driven in partnership with caste-oppressed community members, this win is part of a larger national movement for caste equity that aims to protect caste-oppressed students, workers, and communities across the country. "Driven in partnership with caste-oppressed community members, this win is part of a larger national movement for caste equity that aims to protect caste-oppressed students, workers, and communities across the country," Equity Labs said in its report.
The report quoted Raj Muthu, a Dalit Alumni of Harvard, who said that he experienced 'caste discrimination play out in the Harvard South Asian community'. "From derogatory comments about the intellect of oppressed caste students, to proudly narrating their activism against affirmative action in India prior to their admission into Harvard, to a complete cultural monopoly of South Asian/India celebrations the deep sense of alienation, humiliation, and social exclusion I experienced made me constantly vigilant and worried about the consequences of being outed as a Dalit in Harvard's South Asian circles," Muthu said.
The study explained the caste as a structure of oppression that impacts over 1 billion people across the world. "It is a system of religiously codified exclusion that was established in Hindu scripture. At birth, every child inherits his or her ancestor's caste, which determines social status and assigns "spiritual purity"," it said.
"The South Asian demographic is very much viewed as a monolith at the university, dominated by caste privileged folks of Indian origin. But our community is interfaith, intercaste, and committed to caste equity," said Ria, Anti-Caste Community Member and Staff at Harvard.
The report said that 60% Dalits faced caste-based derogatorHarvard Adds Caste Bias Protections for Dalit Students Facing Discrimination
y jokes and comments, while another 25% said they faced verbal or physical assault owing to their caste. Two out of three Dalits surveyed said they faced some kind of discrimination at their workplace.
It noted that even though Caste is concept particular to South Asia, the phenomenon stays with them even when they move out of the region. "In the United States many caste-oppressed migrant communities who come from caste and religious backgrounds impacted by caste discrimination are finding that caste has replicated itself in in South Asian community, religious, and business institutions," it said.