St Stephen’s College in Delhi announced Monday that its panel to interview students for undergraduate admissions this year will, for the first time, also include one member of the college’s Supreme Council, which comprises six members of the Church of North India (CNI).
The move drew sharp criticism from the teacher representatives in the college’s Governing Body (GB), who said it could “compromise” the admission process. According to the college constitution, the Council controls 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”. It also states that the Council “shall have no jurisdiction over the administration of the College”.
Three teacher representatives of the college’s GB — Nandita Narain, N P Ashley and Abhishek Singh — “condemned the illegal and unacademic decision” and said it could “compromise the academic integrity of our admissions process”. They also demanded that the decision be “withdrawn”.
The three teachers said St Stephen’s principal John Varghese made the “shocking announcement” in a Staff Council meeting Tuesday and that “almost all the permanent teachers present at the meeting protested strongly against this unilateral announcement”. Narain said roughly 50 members of the Staff Council were present for the meeting, of which 20-25 were permanent teachers.
Varghese did not respond to queries by The Indian Express but Bishop Warris K Masih of CNI, who is also a member of the Council and the GB, told The Indian Express, “It doesn’t matter if it’s never happened before. The college belongs to us. The teacher representatives have no right to object.”
Asked about the college constitution, which says the Council will not have jurisdiction on administrative matters, Masih said, “It doesn’t matter. We have got these things approved in the GB.” On why the need was felt, he said, “We just felt like that. We are concerned about the 50% Christian students, the other students will go as always.”
In a meeting on March 14 this year, the GB had also decided that the quota for CNI applicants will go up from 22.5% to 25% of the total 50% seats reserved for Christians, and that each department will have an entrance test for admissions. Narain said these decisions, too, were not discussed in the Staff Council.
In a statement issued Monday, Narain, Ashley and Singh said that the decision violated the College Constitution. “The 1992 judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court that upheld the minority status of the College 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 said.
According to 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”.
“There is a clear conflict of interest in 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,” it said.