Friday, June 15, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 26: General approval but...

The Press Conference and the release made by the Officer on Special Duty as Principal of St. Stephen's College, Revd. Valsan Thambu, seems to have got the right amount of spin. There has been general approval that the Dalit Christians will get a larger share of the seats at this prestigious college.

John Dayal sent me numerous pieces of information about the opinions of the Press, including the welcoming opinion of the All India Christian Council.

ALL INDIA CHRISTIAN COUNCIL

PRESS STATEMENT
NEW DELHI, 14 JUNE 2007

CHRISTIAN COUNCIL HAILS `HISTORIC' ST STEPHENS QUOTA FOR DALIT
CHRISTIANS; WELCOME NEW CATHOLIC EDUCATION POLICY FOR MARGINALISED


All India Christian Council president Dr Joseph D'souza and Secretary
General Dr John Dayal have welcomed as 'historic' the move by the St
Stephen's College to give preferential admissions to brilliant
students from the Dalit Christian community in the prestigious
institution of higher learning.

St Stephen's College, they noted, has become the first Church-
constituted Institution to take this long-due affirmative action which
will go far in undoing prejudices against Christians from the
erstwhile depressed classes and scheduled castes in north and south
India.

Dr D'souza and Dr Dayal have also welcomed the Education Policy
announced by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India which reaffirms
the commitment of the Church to the education of the marginalised.

"These revolutionary measures will go a long way in the empowerment
of 60 per cent of the Indian Christian community who had fallen out
of the development net of the church and were also ignored by the
State," the Christian Council leaders said.

These steps are also in keeping with the recent recommendations of the
Justice Rangnath Misra National Commission for Religious and
Linguistic Minorities which recently said Dalit Christians [and Dalit
Muslims] must be given scheduled caste status and privileges given to
Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist Dalits. "Religion cannot come in the way of
empowerment and development of a people subjugated for three
millennia," the Council said.

Dalit Christians and Muslims are in the Supreme Court through a PIL
seeking Scheduled caste status denied them by a government order that
communalised affirmative action and reserves it for favoured religion.

The Council called upon both the State and the Church to ensure
quality education through well equipped schools and modern curricula
in districts, towns and Dioceses where Dalit Christians were in
reasonable numbers. This will also be in keeping with the spirit of
the recommendations made for the Muslim community by the Prime
Minster's Special committee on Minorities headed by Justice Rajendra
Sachchar which gave its report some months ago.

Associates of the All India Christian Council already run scores of
high quality English-medium schools in several states in India and are
planning more schools.

"The move by St Stephen's college Officer on Special Duty Rev Valson
Thampu will help remove the impression that the Church runs only elite
schools and colleges for the rich and powerful without concern for the
poor," the Council said.

Dr D'souza and Dr Dayal also challenged statements that the
affirmative action for Dalit Christians will in any way dilute
academic standards for which the historic Institution is noted. St
Stephens' doors are now open to the brilliant students of the Dalit
community who otherwise find such institutions beyond their reach for
various reasons. It will sharpen the competition among the children of
the elite who had so far found it easy to get admission."

It may be recalled that yesterday Rev. Valson Thampu had announced
that 40 per cent of the seats in St Stephen's College will be
reserved for Christian students as against the earlier 32 per cent and
25 per cent of these will be kept aside for Dalit Christians. Ten per
cent of the total 400 seats will now be effectively reserved for Dalit
Christians as per the new reservation formula that will be implemented
from the coming academic session. The college, that has around 400
seats, will also have 15 per cent reservation for the students of
Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, disabled and children of defence
personnel killed in war, while five per cent seats will be meant for
the sportspersons.


But John also sent me this:

NEW DELHI: [Agencies]
Despite strong opposition from faculty members, St Stephen's College
will reserve 10% seats for Dalit Christians this year. The cut-off for
students from the category will be 60% - the lowest in the college,
and usually applicable only to Sanskrit - for all courses. There will
also be some financial assistance extended to them.

The 40% quota for Christians - which will include the 10% seats
reserved for Dalit Christians - will now be filled up ''at all costs''
and for that the college is ready to give students from the community
more than the usual 15% relaxation in cut-off. However, to allay fears
of faculty members that the elite institution's academic standards may
be compromised, the college proposes to start a regular ''merit
audit''.

''We will explore all avenues to make the stint of Dalit Christian
students in the college burden-free. But we are yet to decide whether
that should be in the form of scholarships or fee waivers. All
financial assistance will be need-based,'' said the college's
officiating principal, Valson Thampu.

As per the admission policy cleared by the Supreme Council of the
college on Tuesday, 40% seats are to be reserved for Christian
students - and mandatorily filled - out of which 25% will be reserved
for Dalits of the same category, that is, 10% of the total seats.
Forty per cent will be reserved for non-minority groups and 15% for
underprivileged non-minority students, including SCs, STs, OBCs, wards
of war victims and physically challenged students. The remaining 5%
will be reserved for admission through the sports quota.

This year, for the first time, the college will admit at least 40
Dalit Christians out of a total of 400 students to be admitted to
courses at the undergraduate level. Christian students who qualify on
merit will also be counted in the 40% quota.

In 1992, when the college got minority status, it was directed by the
apex court to reserve at least 50% seats for Christians. However, it
has so far been able to admit only 30-32% students from the category,
with 70% seats open to general category students who are admitted
solely on the basis of merit.

The latest proposal will cut general category seats by 30%, leaving
only 196 seats up for grabs.' It is now mandatory for us to fill the
40% seats meant for Christian students. If the quota doesn't get
filled by providing the usual relaxation in the cut-off by 15%, we
will lower the cut-off further,'' said Thampu. The 15% relaxation
given to SC/ST students till last year will continue this year. All
candidates though will need to appear for interviews regardless of
their caste status, Thampu added.

---------------

Stephen's faculty members object increase in quota

Pallavi Singh

New Delhi, June 11 [Times of India]

: THE meeting called to discuss the new admission policy at St
Stephen's College led to no consensus on Monday after its faculty
objected to the proposal to reserve more than 50 per cent seats.
The policy, formulated by Officer on Special Duty Rev. Valson Thampu
who is officiating as St Stephen's principal, proposes to increase the
quota for Christians from 30 to 40 per cent. The policy proposes 10
seats be reserved for 'Dalit Christians'.

With this, the number of seats available to general category students
is set to come down by 40.

The proposal also sets aside 20 per cent seats for 'other categories':
5 per cent for sports quota and 15 per cent for SC/ST, disabled and
children/widows/wives of soldiers killed or disabled. Sources said
faculty members, especially Heads of Department, objected to the idea
of reserving more than half the seats. "We don't want the college to
disturb 50 per cent of seats open to general category students," said
a faculty member who was part of the meeting. "Our argument was that
the college must not take regressive steps that dilute its excellent
academic record."

Objection was also raised on the college prospectus for this year
carrying no mention of the proposed policy for students. "This matter
was raised by a few teachers," said Prof Vinod Chowdhury, media
advisor to the principal. "But they were told that our prospectus
never carried any details on reservations, so why (include them)
now?"

The policy that invited objection from several teachers could not get
a unanimous nod from the 33 teachers present even after Rajshekhar
Rao, legal advisor to the college, discussed with them the probable
legal implications of the policy.

"There was no voting on the policy, nor was any resolution passed,"
Chowdhury said. "After a discussion for about two hours, we found that
though there was no fundamental objection, concerns were expressed
about maintaining academic excellence of the college. The teachers
have been asked to submit their objections, if any, by 1 pm on
Tuesday."

Meanwhile, the college also put up a notice in its staff room, asking
faculty members to not talk to the media. The policy is expected to be
tabled at the college's Supreme Council meeting on Tuesday for final
approval.


Revd. Thambu is a reverend of the Church and a recognised expert in teaching of English.

He is doing what he believes is right.

He carried out this reform from his heart. He did it so that there is no ambiguity in the policy of admissions. He did it so that there is no chance of corrupt practices in the most important area of the life of the College.

One must recall here what John Dayal had written in his earlier submission to me - so far all accusations of corrupt practices in admission had been just accusations without any proof!

In Revd. Thambu's report to me after he talked to our local alumni, he found all round approval for this step.

However, Revd. Thambu did what is typical of the Peter Principle.

Revd. Thambu has to stop being a person just committed to his ideals, however important they are, and become one capable of managing this glorious institution to fall in line with his ideals and values. This transition may take time, but it requires a sincere effort on his part to become "a Manager", first.

Revd. Thambu failed to unanimously carry the most important faction of his team with him. The Faculty seems divided in its acceptance of his approach. This causes friction and back chat, which will fester and affect Management Style. This is least what a new Principal requires as he drives the College to higher levels.

I sincerely pray that the Faculty will fall in line and help Revd. Thambu re-establish our College as the foremost institution in Education in India.

3 comments:

Manasi said...

Hi Jacob,
Here is a very well thought article by Ram Guha, a former Stephanian
http://outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20070625&fname=Ramachandra+Guha+%28F%29&sid=1&pn=1

from the tenor of your previous posts, it is quite likely that you will not agree with many of the points that he makes. Nevertheless, I hope that you will consider this in the spirit of us all wanting a common good. I personally am not a fan of Ram, but unusually for Ram, I think he has it absolutely right here.

Yohan said...

Hello there. As a Stephanian during Anil "Willie" Wilson's tenure, I can assure you that the faculty had problems with him too.

As a Christian, I'm not sure that an 8% increase in the quota will affect things much. Many of the Christians I knew in College, including myself, crossed the cutoffs without the 15% leg-up.

And this may be a controversial sentiment, but the Christian presence on campus no doubt distinguishes St Stephen's from other DU institutions, and gives it a unique flavour.

[A friend and I attempted to bring back KT in 2003, after a 2 year absence. We brought one issue out. Better than nothing I suppose! ]

pOlO said...

Hi,

your post has a report by me but you've got the publication wrong. I work for The Indian Express.

Nice to drop in here, gives me a different view of things..

Pallavi Singh
The Indian Express.