Sunday, March 16, 2008

Regime change at St. Stephen's

With the resignation of Valson Thampu as the college's principal, St. Stephen's now has an opportunity to leave behind all the controversies he brought about. The immediate cause for his resignation appears to be the realization that his PhD in theology is not enough for his appointment as the principal; apparently, UGC (or, is it Delhi University?) regulations demand that the PhD should be in a "relevant" field, which is interpreted as a field taught at the college. It turns out St. Stephen's does not have a department of theology.

Right from his appointment as the principal -- technically, an officer on special duty acting as principal! -- Thampu has been a controversial figure. One of his early actions was to increase the quota for Christians to 40%. This move attracted the ire of many prominent Stephen's alumni, including Ram Guha and Burkha Dutt.

Another series of controversies -- which eventually led to Thampu's resignation -- arose when his tenure as principal needed to be formalized. Here's an approximate version of events (please correct me if I am wrong): An initial recruitment ad specified qualifications that appeared to be tailored to suit Thampu (Masters degree without specifying any minimum marks, age range of 50 to 60, etc). However, when questions were raised about these requirements being incompatible with the regulations of UGC and Delhi University (to which St.Stephen's is affiliated), the college administration tried to use its status as a "minority institution" (which, apparently, confers on it certain special privileges). One of these UGC/DU requirements is this "PhD in a relevant field".

There's a report that suggests that Thampu did not have a PhD when he took over in May 2007, but obtained one late last year from Allahabad Agricultural Institute (a "Christian University of Rural Life"), which has a faculty of theology, "established to impart religious studies based on the fusion of the Gospel and modern means of farming."

The St.Stephen's administration -- and Thampu -- went through a whole bunch of legal maneuvers such as challenging, unsuccessfully, the DU and the Minorities Commission in the Delhi High Court, whose interim observation last week (that St.Stephen's must adhere to UGC norms) sealed Thampu's fate.

In the wake of Thampu's resignation, St. Stephen's Supreme Council has seen it fit to appoint a media adviser -- one Mr. Sunil Matthew -- who told the media that the appointment of the new principal will be "in accordance with the Constitution of the college and with due regard to the University regulations."

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Now, it's time for Stephanian bloggers (of whom there are many) to come forward and tell us the "real" inside story behind the struggle for the soul control of this college ;-)


  1. Anonymous said...

    I don't know why universities offer a PhD in (or even have a department of) theology in the first place. Give them a PhD in history of religion instead, and ask them to study *real* events/people for a change.

    Good riddance to bad rubbish.