WashingtonCalifornia State University (CSU) system’s trustees on Tuesday voted unanimously to ratify an agreement, which historically demands caste as a protected category to all of its anti-discrimination clauses for all contracts.

The development, described as historic by its proponents led by Equality Labs, comes days after more than 80 Indian origin faculty members from the university system opposed such a move. The development impacts all the CSU systems over 23 campuses and eight off-campus centres enrolling 4,85,550 students with 55,909 faculty and staff.

Notably, Cal State is the largest four-year public university system in the country.

“Caste oppressed students, community members, and the labour movement stood shoulder to shoulder to tell our truths and secure this win,” Thenmozhi Soundararajan, executive director of Equality Labs, a Dalit Civil Rights Organisation, said in a statement.

As many as 112 Cal State faculty, along with nearly 500 allied academics, numerous civil rights organisations and labour unions submitted letters of support for the addition of caste to the Cal State Non-Discrimination Policy and to urge the Cal State trustees to ratify without delay the California Faculty Association’s historic Collective Bargaining Agreement that includes caste protections and furthers caste equity for millions of CSU students, staff, faculty and workers.

“CFA members are in the process of voting on the agreement between CSU management and CFA. This agreement includes the inclusion of caste as a protected category. We strongly support the inclusion of caste. It is about non-discrimination not discrimination,” said CFA president Charles Toombs.

Following these decisive actions, the inclusion of caste in the tentative agreement is another important move towards equality and nondiscrimination for some of the most vulnerable members of the CSU community, said Ruvani Fonseka, assistant professor, San Jose State University School of Social Work, former lecturer, CSU East Bay Social Work Department and a signatory to the faculty letter.

Last week, more than 80 faculty members of the CSU opposed a recent announcement of the university to include caste in its non-discriminatory policy.

In a blistering letter to the CSU board of trustees opposing the move, the faculty members wrote that the new policy would unfairly target a minority community for policing and disparate treatment. Adding caste as a specific and separate protected category would apply only to the faculty of Indian and South Asian descent, they said.

“The addition of caste is a misguided overreach given the existence of comprehensive policies that already protect against various forms of discrimination,” said Praveen Sinha, professor of accountancy at CSU, Long Beach.

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