St Stephen’s Faculty Opposes Move to Include Church Member in Admission Process

St Stephen’s College on Monday, May 13, announced that its panel to interview students seeking admission into the college will have one member of the college’s supreme council. The council is a subset of six members of the Governing Body (college’s managing committee) who are all members of the Church of North India.

This is the first time that the interview panel will have a member from the Church.

The college constitution says that the supreme council controls the “religious and moral instruction of students of the college and of all matters affected its religious character as a Christian College of the Church of North India.” It further states that the council “shall have no jurisdiction over the administration of the College.”

According to the Indian Express, when the college’s principal John Verghese made the announcement during a staff council meeting, almost all the permanent teachers present in the meeting protested the move.

Three teacher representatives — Nandita Narain, N.P. Ashley and Abhishek Singh — in the Governing Body said  that the decision could “compromise” the admission process, the Indian Express reported.

The representatives issued a press release saying that the decision violates the college’s constitution and goes against the 1992 Supreme Court judgment which allowed the college to conduct interviews for admissions provided that they would only be taken by the teachers, The Hindu reported.

The Indian Express quoted the statement: “never in the history of the College has a non-academic person from outside the faculty of the College been a member of the admissions process.”

‘Formal warning’

Things escalated on Tuesday when the college’s principal, according to News click, issued a “formal warning” to Narain saying that the press release was concocted and “factually and legally incorrect.”

The principal, in the letter, stated that all the decisions related to admissions are taken by the supreme council and not by him (as was claimed by Narain in the press release).

“I wish to bring to your notice that 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,” News click quoted Verghese’ letter.

Furthermore, he said that all the teachers were duly informed about the guidelines in a meeting held on March 14, 2019. In the letter, he asked Narain to refrain from such statements in the future.

“You may take this letter as a formal warning issued to you. You are advised not to repeat such irresponsible and unbecoming behaviour in the future, failing which the college will be forced to take appropriate action against you,” the letter said.

DUTA and student body oppose the decision

According to The Hindu, Narain retorted by saying that the principal never discussed the proposal in the governing body meeting and she added that “even if it had been passed, it is against the constitution of the college.”

The Delhi University Teacher’s Association called the letter a “vindictive step to silence dissent, criticism and expression,” The Hindu quoted.