Starting this year, the interview panel for admission into Delhi University’s St Stephen’s College will have a member of the supreme council — a body higher in authority than the governing body of the college — which comprises members from the Church of North India and also those nominated by it.
This is the second attempt by the college administration to increase the influence of the Church in the day-to-day functioning of the college after Valson Thampu, former principal of the college, had moved an amendment proposal in 2015 to increase the power of the supreme council regarding admission and faculty appointment.
Three teachers who are current representatives on the governing body of the college — Nandita Narain of the department of mathematics, N P Ashley (English) and Abhishek Singh (economics) — issued a statement “condemning the illegal and un-academic decision taken by principal John Varghese” on Monday. They have demanded the withdrawal of the decision, claiming it “could compromise the academic integrity of the admissions process”.
Church’s say in Stephen’s admission? Teachers miffed
Following opposition from teachers and with a petition by 21 teachers challenging the move in the Delhi high court in 2015, the Stephen’s administration could not implement Thampu’s proposal. Moreover, the move was against the DU statute, which could have resulted in the college losing its affiliation.
The move is also against clauses IV and V of the 106-yearold constitution of St Stephen’s.
The members of the supreme council include the Bishop of the Diocese of Delhi/ Church of North India Bishop Warris Masih, who is the chairman; two persons appointed by the Bishop —Alwan Masih and Dr.Monodeep Daniel — the person appointed by the Church of North India Synodical Board of Higher Education, who at present is Sudhir Joesph, director of St Stephen’s Hospital and a person appointed by the Diocesan board of Education, Diljeet Titus and principal of the college, who is the member secretary.
It was during a meeting held with the staff council on Monday, Varghese, announced that the interview panel for selection of students for admission to the college will include a member of the Supreme Council. The permanent teachers present at the meeting also protested strongly against this unilateral announcement as it was against clause IV and V of the college’s Constitution.
The clause states, “The Supreme Council of the College shall have the control of the religious and moral instruction of students of the College and of all matters affecting its religious character as a Christian
College of the Church of North India; and, in addition, shall appoint, after proper advertisement, the Principal of the College who shall be a member of the Church of North India or of a Church that is in communion with the Church of North India. The Supreme Council of the College shall have no jurisdiction over the administration of the College.”
The principal John Varghese and Bishop Warris Masih did not respond to several calls and messages.
Being a religious minority institution, the 1992 judgment of the Supreme Court had permitted the college to have a separate admissions process including an interview with 15% weightage only because the interviews were conducted solely by the teachers of the college. It is the only college in DU which conducts aptitude test and interview for admission. 15 marks is for the two and rest 85% is for the class XII marks. The college offers 10 undergraduate courses.
“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. In the governing body meeting held on March 14 no such decision had been announced by the principal. He has made this unilateral announcement in the Staff Council. Hence, he has acted in violation of the powers of both the Governing Body as well as the Staff Council, as laid down in Ordinance XVIII of Delhi University,” said a press statement released by the three teachers.
The teachers have alleged the move is in clear conflict of interest of the principal.
“Bringing in another member of the Supreme Council into the interview panel for admissions, as it is the Supreme Council that selects the Principal, and will also take a decision about the renewal of his appointment for another term of five years,” said the statement.