Stephen’s College row: Governing Council Chairman asserts authority

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St. Stephen's College. (Photo: Facebook/Globalstephanians)

New Delhi: Amid a row, Chairman of the Supreme Council and Governing Body of St Stephens College Rt Revd Warris K Masih on Tuesday asserted that the decision to include a member of the Council in the interview panel for selection of students for admission was to ensure that the right of the Christian minority for 50 per cent seats to the college was safeguarded.

In a statement issued to clarify on “the misrepresentation of the Principal’s Report which was reported in the media”, Masih said the decision would in no way impact the standard of education or of the students who would be admitted to the college.

The move has been opposed by some members of the college governing body, who, on Monday, accused Principal John Varghese of taking an “illegal decision” and sought its withdrawal.

In the release issued on Monday by Nandita Narain, Associate Professor in the department of mathematics, the members said Varghese made the shocking announcement of including a member of the Supreme Council in the interview panel at a meeting of the college staff council.

The Supreme Council is a subset of six members of the governing body (managing committee) who are all members of the Church of North India (CNI).

The Chairperson of both the Supreme Council and the governing body is the Bishop of Delhi, and the Principal is the Member Secretary of both the bodies.

In his statement, Masih said, “The Supreme Council had taken a decision at its meeting held on 12th March, 2019 to take steps to ensure that the right of the Christian minority for 50 per cent seats in admissions to the college was safeguarded.”

He added that the Supreme Council has “the power to address and oversee all matters affecting the Christian character of the college.”

In keeping with this, the Chairman said, “the Supreme Council decided that for the admissions for the academic year 2019-20 to the college, there would be a member of the Governing Body nominated by the Supreme Council to oversee the admission process.

“This in no way would impact the standard of education or of the students who would be admitted to college.

“The Supreme Council wishes to reiterate the fact that the high academic standards of the college continue to remain pre-eminent and to this end the Supreme Council remains committed.”

Earlier, the college Principal issued a “formal warning” to Narain, saying she had “deliberately” chosen to “ignore the facts” and issued “false and irresponsible” comments to the media concerning the revised admission guidelines.

“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,” Varghese said.

The letter said the press release issued by Narain was “complete concoction, factually and legally incorrect”, and against the code of professional ethics and ethos of the institution.

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

The release issued by Narain said the decision was in violation of the college Constitution, which categorically stipulates that the Supreme Council shall have no jurisdiction in the administration of the college.

“Never in the history of the college has a non-academic person from outside the college faculty been a member of the admission process,” the release said.

The release said the undersigned teachers “strongly condemn the illegal and unacademic decision taken by the Principal that could compromise the academic integrity of our admission process, and demand that it is withdrawn.”

It is understood that a decision has also been taken that cut-offs for interviews could be dropped up to 25 per cent for those belonging to CNI Delhi diocese — which manages the college — compared with the general category students.

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