Published: 11th September 2020
How MCC's Principal P Wilson tracked down seat-selling middlemen and shut down an admission scam in his first year
MCC has made a volitional attempt to begin tracking such elements to curb the culture and to conserve the reputation and values of the institution, the Principal said
In a rare occurrence, the Madras Christian College went after a middleman who was trying to secure a seat in the college for monetary gain and not only fired the people involved but also cancelled the admission of the candidate and also ensured they returned the money to the parents of the student. Getting seats for money is an open secret not just in the country but throughout the world. Two Hollywood actors even ended up going to jail in the 2019 college admission bribery scandal!
So MCC’s decision to not let the incident pass was in many ways exemplary and a great example for all other colleges as well. And a lot of the credit goes to Prof P Wilson, who took charge as Principal, in June, when we were all still getting used to the pandemic. Wilson was pretty sure that a lot of challenges come with taking up such a high posting but to be starting off your stint in the midst of a pandemic was not something he was expecting but had seemed to take it head-on quite tactfully.
Wilson said that the decision to go after the admission racket came from a lot of personal conviction and self-motivation. “The question of middlemen involved in admissions is not new to the top colleges but my personal conviction pushed me to do this. And I did it all on my own, I never sought others’ help because then it would be revealed that I’m doing this and could have alerted the people involved. So I did the tracking on my own. With my own people, I made arrangements in such a way that I was able to identify the person and immediately approached the police,” Wilson said.
The Principal said he was determined to ‘weed out’ these middlemen, “My value system resonates with the values and ethos of the institution. Actually, no one is interested in intervening in these matters because it's not normal. So doing this implicates my family’s safety as well and has implications in political circles too. So it took a lot of courage and guts to unveil these incidents.” The professor said that there are many innocent people who get exploited in this process as well, “Someone may hear that someone else needed some help with admissions. Innocently, they may try to see if they can do anything but if you trace the origin of these requests, one will find that somewhere someone would have tried to exploit someone by taking money.”
“Which is why I didn’t let it go after the criminal was caught. I wanted to file a complaint, not just to prove that we did something but I wanted to pursue the complaint till it was settled. We wanted to make sure everything was returned. So we made it a point to file a CSR, track and trace all the documents. We found the application, found the parents’ contacts and we returned the money to the parents in the presence of the police. And, we also cancelled the admission," the Principal explained. Soon after, he also decided to implement a system that would not allow such incidents to take place, “Now we want to take an undertaking from those who recommend students for admission, do background checks and we can’t just simply grant admissions to someone even if we know them very well," he added.
“MCC has made a volitional attempt to begin tracking such elements to curb the culture and to conserve the reputation and values of the institution. I wish to reiterate that MCC never subscribed to the view of employing agency or middlemen in administering admission. MCC values its traditions and spiritual values on which it is founded and hence weeding out such elements by clipping it from its origin is very close to the heart of all MCCians, including the alumni,” he said.
What new challenges did COVID bring to MCC’s new Principal?
There were plenty of them. “I had only about ten days till I was to take charge, so there wasn’t much that I could learn. So the system was completely new to me. It wasn’t a seamless transition from the past to the present. So with every occasion, we had to figure out a new alternative, a new normal. Initially, it was very difficult, I had multiple COVID encounters. My personal assistant was infected and a family on campus also was. So we had to completely shut down because we didn’t have any protocol on how to function during COVID. So we shut down for 10-15 days and reopened in July,” the Principal said. The administration held a lot of virtual meetings and developed a protocol. “We came up with a COVID management system. We started periodical identification and isolation. When the first screening was conducted, we found four potential carriers but who didn’t show symptoms. So we isolated them and made them get tests. Then again we did the same thing the following week. Finally, looking at the way we had successfully managed to keep everyone safe, people started gaining confidence and everyone started coming to office,” he said, “MCC has coped well in acclimatizing itself with the new normal and we have been making decisions in a corporate set up involving participatory governance that renders pragmatic solutions for the issues that we face.”
Admissions were conducted according to the guidelines and the college has also managed to transition to online classes quite easily, “We were systematic in our approach towards conducting online classes. Our faculty themselves were trained through online FDP programmes during the lockdown. In addition, we conducted our workshops in phases for the representative faculty from each department and then made the representatives train their own colleagues. Hence it was a seamless transition.”
“Online classes have been initiated from August 3, as per the Government guidelines in a phased manner beginning with major courses alone and then progressively we introduced allied courses and other optional courses. We do have issues like any other institutions in taking it through due to the network problems and non-availability of gadgets with students. However, we are trying to address the issues within available resources,” he explained.
Not just that, the college has also managed to conduct elections for the College Union Society and also, virtual cultural events! “We are getting prepared to conduct online examinations by educating the faculty through online demonstrations,” he said.