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Church to Now Have a Say in St Stephen's Admission Process, Teachers Call Move Unconstitutional

The announcement, made by college principal John Varghese, has been met with strong criticism from the faculty members as it brings the college’s admission process under a conflict of interest.


New Delhi: In a first in the history of Delhi University's St Stephen's College, its interview panel for undergraduate admissions this year will include one member of the college’s Supreme Council, which comprises six members of the Church of North India (CNI).
It is for the first time that a non-academic person from outside the faculty of the college been made a member of the admissions procedure of the undergraduates.
The announcement, made by college principal John Varghese, has been met with strong criticism from the faculty members as it brings the college’s admission process under a conflict of interest. 
In a meeting of St Stephen’s College Staff Council, principal John Varghese said that the “interview panel for selection of students for admission to the college will include a member of the Supreme Council.” 
The Supreme Council is the subset of six members of the Governing Body (Managing Committee) all members of the Church of North India. The Chairperson of both the Supreme Council and the Governing Body is the Bishop of Delhi, and Member Secretary of both is the Principal.
Almost all permanent teachers present at the meeting protested strongly against the unilateral announcement. Later in the evening, a statement was issued by Nandita Narain, Associate Professor, department of Mathematics, member of governing body, N P Ashley, Assistant Professor, department of English, member of governing body, Abhishek Singh, Assistant Professor, department of Economics, member of governing body.
The principal, however, issued a letter to the protesting teachers, saying their representatives were part of the meeting in which it was decided to implement the move.
Against Constitution of College
The decision is against the constitution of the college, the members of the governing body claimed. 
The clause 4 of the college’s constitution says: “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 clause 5 lays down that “the Supreme Council of the College shall have no jurisdiction over the administration of the College."


The faculty members pointed out that the decision “is in violation of the college constitution that categorically stipulates that the Supreme Council shall have no jurisdiction in the administration of the college.”
They also pointed out that in a governing body meeting held on March 14, no such decision was 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 the statement by the faculty members.
The 1992 judgment of the Supreme Court, which upheld the minority status of the college, had permitted it 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.
Clear Conflict of Interest 
The changes bring the process under a clear conflict of interest, the teachers said. “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.
The undersigned teachers’ representatives on the Governing Body of St. Stephen's College strongly condemned “the illegal and unacademic decision taken by the principal, that could compromise the academic integrity of our admissions process” and demanded that it be withdrawn.
Kerala Model
Highlighting the higher education processes in Kerala, assistant professor N P Ashley said, “It is an open secret in Kerala that appointments in aided colleges are all arranged by taking bribes which are euphemistically called ‘donations’.” 
The committee for appointments is constituted by the principal, a subject expert from the University department, a government nominee and one management representative. 
There are three academicians and one management person. He apprehends that the proceedings in the interview cannot insulate the academicians present. “They have to go with the management by compromising their academic and personal ethics. But what is interesting here is, how the presence of one management member changes the character of the interview board entirely and makes a mockery of it,” he said in a statement.
As many colleges in Kerala are built by local communities in order to support community development, there are a number of aided colleges that have 20% reservation for the people of the community. This is supposed to be given to the poor and the educationally backward from the community. “As managements handle these seats, these are called management quota seats and for those seats have been getting sold, and Rs 1/2 lakhs is the going rate.”
“This shows how a decentralised means of community development have been completely twisted into money-making underground channels. Because politicians need community leaders for votes (these colleges are owned by the dominant Nair, Christian, Muslim and Ezhava communities) and businessmen for funding, never do these things get discussed,” Ashley said. 
“It is a sure road to disaster is the lesson from the utter ruining of the higher educational sector of Kerala,” he added. 



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