St. Stephen's principal Valson Thampu has banned the college's first ever online news magazine — Stephen's Weekly — for not getting the content cleared by him, a move termed regressive by students and faculty members.
Apart from current affairs at the campus, the e-zine carried Thampu's interview. While the domain name of the weekly's website led to a dead link on Tuesday, HT was able to access a Google cache page which showed the article as it appeared on March 9, three days before the website was taken down.
Thampu said in the interview that the weekly was a "classic illustration of doing something without even consulting the senior members (teachers). This is a disease... The joy of being together, the joy of working together, is totally rejected by young people because they don't have the resilience and the grace to adjust, they want everything on their terms, and I'm telling you, life cannot go on like this." On recruitment of teachers, he said there were "bottlenecks created by the university". "There was a policy on the part of the government also not to facilitate appointments," he added.
When asked for details of the ban, Thampu told HT "to speak to the students". Thampu's email to the students said the e-zine would "remain suspended and the situation will be reviewed in July." He later told a national daily the magazine was banned because "I certainly want to ensure that what's published is of a standard. What they've published is bunkum".
"To ban an online weekly in a liberal arts college is draconian. Students should be encouraged to think independently and not just comply with the authorities' whims," a senior professor said on condition of anonymity.
Inspired by the Brown University Daily Herald, Stephen's Weekly was to be an online news portal with extensive reportage on college news and events. The first issue went live on the internet on March 7, and was banned just five days later. The reason cited by the principal for the ban was "that students did not follow the due procedure".
Devansh Mehta, editor and founding member of the web magazine, which got over 2,000 page views in the five days it existed, said: "The ban has tarnished the liberal image of our college. And how can a principal who has absolutely no role in setting up the online weekly sabotage our work? Despite being a self-appointed 'staff adviser' he did not even have the courtesy to give us money for the domain. Also, the website was bought with money collected by the students."
Screenshot of the message Valson Thampu sent.
The website was taken down on the March 12 and the domain name now leads to a dead link.
Fear rules the minds of students too, most preferring not to say anything on the issue. Abek Thayil, a third year student of Physics (Honors), told HT: "No one ever tried to capture what goes on in the campus on a daily basis. It's very sad that an all-student initiative is being butchered like this."