St. Stephen’s bends its constitution for the Church
The 102-year-old constitution of St. Stephen’s College is headed for a big change with the Church of North India likely to get a bigger say in its functioning.Updated: Nov 20, 2015 08:12 IST
The 102-year-old constitution of St. Stephen’s College is headed for a big change with the Church of North India likely to get a bigger say in its functioning.
A draft amendment circulated by principal Valson Thampu proposes to hand over student admissions and faculty appointments to the college’s supreme council, leaving the governing body toothless. It also empowers the principal to take disciplinary action against students or staff, independent of the governing body, which till now had a say in the matter.
The current supreme council is made up of five Church of North India (CNI) members and the principal. It was earlier responsible only for appointing the principal and safeguarding the college’s minority status.
The draft amendment, a copy of which is with HT, will be presented for voting before the 16-member governing body on November 23. Sources said the body, which has been looking after admissions and appointments so far, is largely loyal to Thampu.
Teachers fear that the amendment, if passed, would destroy the “secular and intellectual” fabric of the Delhi University college. “This is being done to establish oligarchy of Christians who will run the institution as they like. The new constitution removes the system of checks and balances. The secular and intellectual interest of the institution is being compromised by vested interests who have already brought bad name to the college,” said a senior teacher, who has been a governing body member.
“All of a sudden, the principal will also have the power to decide on staff increments,” said Nandita Narain, a teacher.
“Now what is the legitimacy of the changes that are being brought? Moreover, the college is a government-funded institution and CNI does not even give 5% that they are supposed to give, so why is so much power being vested in them,” she asked.
The amendment also plans to replace the St Stephen’s College Trust, which currently runs the college, with a proposed St Stephen’s Educational Society which will have the power to establish Stephen’s-like private institutions across India.
The proposed society will comprise at least 11 members -- the Bishop of the diocese of Delhi (CNI) as the chairman, the CNI general secretary, one member from the Delhi diocesan board of education, a nominee of the CNI moderator, a nominee of the executive committee of the Delhi diocese, three persons of eminence from the Christian community, two more Christians from the field of education, management and finance nominated by the principal, and the principal himself. In case the post of Delhi diocese Bishop is vacant, the moderators commissary will be the chairman. No teacher will be part of this body.
These 11 members will also be part of the supreme council, which till now had no jurisdiction over administration of the college.
The governing body will now have 19 members but the number of teacher representatives is likely to be brought down from four to two as the draft amendment does away with post of two elected teachers.
As per the draft, the governing body will have to “control the policy, development and direction of the institution and administer the finances and control the income and expenditure of the institution.”
Even the alumni nominated to the governing body shall be identified by the principal in consultation with the chairman. “It is too early to comment but I hope the governing body will take into account the plus and minus points of the draft,” said Mani Shankar Aiyar, Congress leader and a Stephen’s alumni.
Warris K Masih of the CNI did not respond to HT’s calls and text messages. Thampu, however, confirmed the developments, saying it was the supreme council’s decision to amend the college constitution.
“There is no point discussing it now as it is just in the preliminary stage and hypothetical matter. But whatever will be done, the decision would be in the interest of the institution,” he said. With the new constitution, the principal will also get to decide which staff members get residential quarters.