Tuesday, February 9, 2016

St Stephen's College

Over the past few years, the situation in the University of Delhi as regards academic content and administration, and attitude towards teachers has been deteriorating at a rapid pace. Teachers as well as students have spoken out against this on several occasions, and I have posted some of their statements and news of agitations (some posts are added below). 

Early in December 2015, I was approached by a news reporter for my views on the current situation prevailing in St Stephen's College. Here are his queries, and my responses:
1./ Sir, we are planning to do a feature story on St Stephens. Being a Stephanian we would like to know of what changes haven taken place from your days in the College.
I was a Stephanian, but my last direct association with the college was 46 years ago - I left it in 1970. Apart from a formal link (to complete my MA in 1973-74), I have not been a student since then. Nor have I ever taught there. So my opinion on any changes are based upon information in the public domain

2./ Do you feel that some some where mediocrity has come into the institution.
In recent years, the accent on religion-based reservations in admissions (never the case when I studied there, and it was no less a Christian institution then) - may have had an impact on the college atmosphere. However, without direct knowledge of the college's functioning I cannot say what kind of effect this could be.

3./ Do you feel happy at the state of affairs in which the college is run.
No I do not. Recent controversies were avoidable and undignified. It is a sad state of affairs for the college authorities to engage in public polemic with students, teachers and researchers. In addition, the latest efforts by the Church of North India (CNI) to enhance its powers of intervention in college affairs, and the powers of the principal over teachers, smack of authoritarianism. The behaviour of the ecclesiastical authorities of the CNI with regard to St Stephen's College may fulfil their ambition, but has not been good for the college or its public stature. They should think twice before embarking on such a course. Their conduct in recent times indicates a lack of broad-mindedness and vision. I am sorry to say that I am not optimistic.

Here is the article that was published, and which contained some of the above remarks:

The latest news from St Stephen's College, particularly as regards the shoddy treatment meted out to recently deceased Shri Rohtas, who was part of the college community all his life (as was his father, whom I remember from four decades past), has been particularly painful to read. A poor and innocent man was hounded simply because his presence irritated the head of the institution. This reminded me of Sita Ram, the head mali of Ramjas College (where I worked from 1974 to 1994), who was brutally punished by the then principal for speaking the truth about an incident of disruption of a DUTA meeting in 1981. That episode had long-lasting repercussions.

The St Stephen's College Governing Body bears direct responsibility for vitiating the academic atmosphere and for introducing a communal and sectarian flavour to the admissions policy in one of the most respected campuses in India. Let them know that they have only added to the authoritarian climate in Indian educational institutions at large. If they do not mend their ways and retrace their steps they will reduce the College to a shadow of its former self.

see also