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Open Letter: Valson Thampu, For St. Stephen’s Sake #FreeYourMind

Valson Thampu’s conservatism puts him in the company of loonies like Sakshi Maharaj, writes @aakaschjoshi

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(Photo Courtesy: <a href="http://www.ststephens.edu/index.htm">St. Stephens College</a>)

To,
The Revered Reverend Valson Thampu
Principal, St. Stephen’s College
(Not Quite) Delhi University

May 27, 2015

Dear Sir,

You have recently expressed your love for the written word to The Indian Express. “An SMS,” you said “is like a cyber fume, it can only survive for minutes. It cannot be retained. But a handwritten letter is something else.” To revive the lost art of letter writing, you have instituted a competition.

Alas, I am now an ‘old’ Stephenian (pun intended) and therefore beyond the pale of your wrath and your rewards. Yet, a letter does seem like the most appropriate medium to articulate my grievances. Perhaps you will consider me for your ‘prize’ anyway.

Believe it or not sir, I was one of your early supporters. You ascended to the post of Chief Cleric of the college during my third year and some of us were not as disturbed as others by your arrival. I had welcomed your move to introduce reservations for poor and Dalit Christians within the Christian quota.

However, any goodwill you may have gained among the less elitist junior members was quickly lost by your paternalistic attitude, which I am told now borders on dictatorial.

The Philosophy Society dinner was usually held outside college, either at a Professor’s house or at a restaurant. You insisted that the dinner be held in the SCR lawns, lest students end up partaking in an alcohol-fuelled revelry in some unsupervised location.

I left college soon after, but tales of your tyranny have now gained apocryphal status.

As with all things, I thought the stories might be greatly exaggerated. And perhaps they are.

Was a young man really kicked out of Residence, his home, for smoking a cigarette? Are you actually against giving tenure to non-Christian academics?

While I was there, Spice (a satirical, anonymous note that students would frequently bring out) was something we looked forward to. Now, there seems to be persecution of some kids for what is, in the sum of things, a harmless website.

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I do know that college felt more like a school than ever before when I visited about two years ago. The cafe is like an extension of the mess, Rohtasji‘s dhaba was facing closure and there was a listlessness that made me not want to return.

Unlike some other alumni, I welcome any move you make towards making college a more egalitarian institution. However, if at all possible, do not infantalize the students. They are adults, even if many of them are not certain about what they want from life. College is a time for them to make their own mistakes and if they are lucky, suffer the consequences. I will always be grateful to college for letting me learn from my many failures.

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Finally, sir, the sort of deep conservatism you have displayed puts you in the company of loonies like Sakshi Maharaj. If not for anything else, please free your mind for the sake of the college.

Yours Sincerely,
Aakash Joshi
B.A. (H) Philosophy, 2008

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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