Published: 15th May 2019
St Stephen's teachers who protested Principal's move to include Church member on admission panel issued notices
Following the principal's decision, which increases the say of the Church in the college's administerial matters, three teachers, had issued a statement condemning the move
Teachers from Stephen's College, Delhi who protested against the Principal's decision to appoint a member of the Church to the college interview panel have been issued notices. The principal, John Varghese had recently decided to appoint a member of the Supreme Council (comprising of six members of the Church of North India) to the college interview panel. The teachers were sent warning letters by the principal, stating that they'd made false claims that are 'factually and legally incorrect'.
The new decision will increase the say of the Church of North India in the college's administrative matters. Three teachers — Nandita Narain, N P Ashely and Abhishek Singh had issued a statement condemning this new move. According to the constitution of the college, which is 95 per cent public funded, the Supreme Council does not have the power to judge the merit of candidates to be admitted to the college. The powers of the Council are restricted to deciding the moral and religious instruction of students, matters affecting the religious character of the college and the appointment of Principals. It can only lay down policies, but ought not and cannot take up the role of evaluating candidates or students’ merit.
But a day after they issued the statement, the teachers were sent separate warning letters, signed by the principal accusing them of issuing false and irresponsible comments and violating the code of professional conduct. "What you falsely claimed as the decision of the principal is, in fact, the decision of the Supreme Council which has the sole power to decide on the admission policy as the college is a Christian minority institution," reads the letter. It also says that a repetition of such an action will force the college to take action against them. The copies of the letter have been sent to the Supreme Council, the chairman and the governing body.
When we contacted Ashley for a reaction on the same, he said that as mentioned in the letter, the issue wasn't discussed in the meeting which was held on March 14. "The principal is saying that it (the decision) was laid down during the Governing Body meeting held on March 14. Abhishek Singh, Nandita Narain and I were the teacher representatives present in that meeting and this issue wasn't discussed. Had it come up then, we would have talked about it right then," he says. He also said that the management's direct involvement in the admission process has had a very bad history. "In the colleges of Kerala where managements have a quota, they take bribe and admit students. But Delhi University was never a place where seats could be bought. This is a step that would lead us to such a situation," he adds.
The DU Teachers' Association and the DU Students' Union have strongly condemned the action. Shakti Singh, DUSU President in a statement questions the principal's claim of calling St Stephen's a minority institution. "In one of the landmark judgment of Aziz Basha v. Union of India 1968, the apex court had specifically held that any University established by an act of parliament and receiving financial aid from the government cannot be held to be minority institution for such purpose," he said in a statement. "The decision of the Supreme Council to interfere in the admission procedure of St. Stephens College is not right in its true spirit and their very presence is questionable and attributable to the activities of the Christian missionaries to satisfy their ulterior objective," he says.
"We see the letters of warning as a threat to the academic character of the institution and the purpose behind the warning is clearly to threaten all teachers against expressing their opinion freely and fearlessly. We demand the withdrawal of the letters and will not hesitate from strong protests if the Principal fails to do so," reads a press release by the DUTA.