‘Worried’: St Stephen’s Students’ Council Weighs in On Church Row

Teachers of St Stephen’s College held a dharna on Friday after the decision to involve the church in admissions.

3 min read
Teachers of St Stephen’s College held a <i>dharna</i> after the decision to involve the church in admissions.

The controversy over the recent decision to involve the Church of North India (CNI) in the admissions process at St Stephen's College has now led to the college’s Students' Union weighing in, as they posted an open letter to the Principal John Varghese on Friday, 17 May, expressing concern that the college would no longer be a "'liberal' arts and science college and instead become a college which is going to be completely programmed and controlled by the management like many other minority institutions in the country."

The row at the prestigious college erupted on 13 May when the principal purportedly announced at a staff council meeting that the interview panel for selection of students for admission would include a member of the Supreme Council, a body which includes six members of the CNI.


Protest ‘Dharna’

Meanwhile, the Staff Association of the college also held a protest dharna on Friday, demanding preservation of academic integrity of admissions process, withdrawal of warning letter to teacher representatives on the governing body and safeguarding the Constitution of the college.

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A day before the dharna, a notice signed by the principal had said that "there should be no disturbance of the working environment in College and that any person or persons disturbing the peace in any manner will be dealt with in accordance with the Conduct Rules (CCS)".

The notice also mentioned that examinations are currently being conducted and any disruption "will be dealt with strictly".

‘College Also Belongs to Us’

The letter by the students' union of St Stephen's College questioned the need to have a member from the Supreme Council in the interview panel, as it also drew attention to the college Constitution, which states that the "Supreme Council of the College shall have no jurisdiction over the administration of the College".

“If another person is introduced, that is, a Supreme Council member, the teachers’ say and the academic elements will be reduced to 2/5th. This will render the opinion of the department professors largely inconsequential, and therefore, the academic integrity and credibility of such an interview. [sic]”
St Stephen’s College Students’ Union, in an open letter to the principal

The open letter also made a reference to comments made by Supreme Council and Governing Body member Bishop Warris K Masih to The Indian Express, wherein, when asked about the controversial move, he remarked, "It doesn't matter if it's never happened before. The college belongs to us. The teacher representatives have no right to object."

The letter stated, "... The entire academic community within the college was deeply hurt by the statements made by a member of the Supreme Council. We firmly believe that the college also belongs to us as much as we belong to the college,"


Soon after the the move to involve the church came to light, teachers, who are members of the GB, had, in a statement, condemned the "illegal and unacademic decision taken by the Principal", saying it is in "violation of the College Constitution" and could "compromise the academic integrity of our admissions process."

Later, the principal issued a letter of 'formal warning' to Professor Nandita Narain, one of the teacher representatives on the GB who had signed the condemnation statement.

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