California State University (CSU) is facing a federal lawsuit filed by two of its faculty members over the school’s move to name caste as a protected status under its non-discrimination policy on Jan. 1.
CSU, which has 23 campuses in California, became the first full U.S. university system to include caste in its non-discrimination policy.
Professors Sunil Kumar of Cal State San Diego and Praveen Sinha of Cal State Long Beach both consider the move unconstitutional as they claimed it would only bolster discrimination against the school’s Hindu and South Asian populations.
According to a CSU spokesperson, the decision to add caste to its anti-discrimination policy “reflects the university’s commitment to inclusivity and respect.” CSU reportedly arrived at the decision following a long multi-campus effort to shed light on the issue of caste discrimination.
The Hindu American Foundation (HAF), which is aiding the professors’ legal representation, said the university is misrepresenting the caste system as a tenet of Hindu belief.
HAF Executive Director Suhag Shukla and Managing Director Samir Kalra claim the policy is “unconstitutional” because it reportedly violates the First Amendment’s Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses as well as the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses.
Kumar and Sinha filed their complaint at a California federal court to stop the university from enforcing the updated policy.
“We fully and vehemently oppose all forms of prejudice and discrimination,” Kumar said in a statement. “But CSU’s Interim Policy singles out all Indian origin and Hindu staff and students solely because we are Indian and Hindu. This by its very definition is discrimination and a denial of our basic civil rights.”
Referring to it as a “misguided policy,” Sinha noted that there are other “generally applicable and neutral categories” that CSU can use if it wants to address incidents of alleged caste discrimination.
Featured Image via California State University