* “The most thankless job in the world is being a principal. Everybody sees you as their enemy.”
* “St Stephen’s should become a university… But teachers are against it.”
These are lines from an interview that St Stephen’s College principal Valson Thampu gave to an in-house e-magazine last month, which he then blocked and set in motion a chain of events that led to one of its co-founders being stripped of an award and suspended for 10 days.
On Thursday, as third-year honours student Devansh Mehta, the co-founder, challenged the college’s decisions in Delhi High Court, the raw transcript of the original interview shows the man who has been heading one of India’s premier institutions for the last seven years taking potshots at its students and faculty.
According to the transcript, Thampu says he wished his elevation to the post of principal “hadn’t happened” because “everybody sees you as their enemy”.
“Students see you as their killjoy, and an inconvenience. You know my heart bursts with love for all of you but you cannot see it. By virtue of being principal, I am despised and seen as an unwelcome presence… It’s always a one-way traffic,” Thampu is quoted as saying.
Asked how a teacher-student relationship can be renewed, the transcript shows Thampu referring to the e-magazine as an example, calling it a “a classic illustration of doing something without even consulting the senior members”.
“This is a disease. You don’t understand that it is a disease… I will take the corrective steps. The joy of being together, the joy of working together, is totally rejected by young people because they don’t have the resilience and grace to adjust, they want everything on their own terms, and I’m telling you, life cannot go on like this,” the transcript quotes him as saying.
Thampu also alleges that the college’s own faculty was against it becoming an autonomous body, according to the transcript.
“In my opinion, St Stephen’s should become a university. We have everything it takes to become a top university in the country. We have been choked from both within and without. But teachers are against it,” the transcript records.
“Autonomy was given on a platter to St Stephen’s. But because of resistance from the faculty, it was not possible. In recent times also, whenever I have suggested the idea of autonomy, there has been serious resistance by the faculty,” Thampu is quoted as saying.
Referring to the controversy in 2012 over India’s former under-19 captain Unmukt Chand not being allowed to appear for his university exams because of lack of adequate attendance, Thampu claims he was “misrepresented” by the media, the transcript shows.
“When this application (for Chand to appear for the exams) came to me, within one minute, I wrote emphatically, forwarded it to the vice chancellor, and strongly recommended it. The university kept quiet about it. The university did not look at it. I said file a case. I will support you. This is the only country in the world where a man is attacked for following the rules. You cannot have any other country in the world. I was pilloried, attacked, vilified, and ridiculed in the media for a whole month,” the transcript records.
Thampu then appears to direct his ire at the cricketer, with the transcript noting, “At the same time, I was also disappointed with him because he treated this college like dirt… subsequently, now that also is not fair… You earn the label of St Stephen’s college and you cannot bother to come in even for one day. Now that is not what being a sportsman is.”
And finally, the lines that could not return to haunt the principal who appears to have gone on the warpath against a student of his college.
“St Stephen’s college cannot be truly itself without a sense of humour. Today, I really do not sense the spirit of humour at work in our midst… Now what has happened is everything has become stereotypical, now where can there be humour in all this? So all of you should be extremely worried about the death of spirit of humour in this college because it shows that quality of life is declining.”
The first edition of ‘Stephen’s Weekly went live on March 7 and registered over 2,000 hits before it was banned by Thampu for not taking his clearance for publishing the interview.
Besides suspending the magazine till July, Thampu suspended Mehta on Wednesday till April 23 on the recommendation of a one-man inquiry committee and stripped him of an award for “good conduct” from his faculty he was to receive on Saturday.
Mehta, co- founder of the magazine, has moved court calling his suspension a violation of his fundamental right to speech and expression.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Thampu claimed he had no objection with the publication, and that he suspended the magazine because the student “breached the trust and understanding reached with him”. “The student took the issue to the media and maligned the institution’s name,” he said.