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Church defends proposed amendment to St Stephen’s Constitution

Church defends proposed amendment to St Stephen’s Constitution
The Church of North India (CNI) has defended the controversial move to amend the century-old Constitution of St Stephen’s College that is likely to vest its principal Valson Thampu and the clergy with sweeping powers in running it, claiming it was for the “benefit” of the institution.

“The move has been well deliberated that the constitution needs to be amended but it is not just to empower the Church or the principal, it is only in benefit of the institution and the students studying in it,” said Alwan Masih, General Secretary, CNI.

“What is wrong if more institutions like St Stephen’s come up under the same umbrella? They will also share the legacy of the existing college and cater to more students. Similarly, what is wrong if the principal is granted more powers, he will work in benefit of the institution only,” he added.

Thampu, who is retiring in February next year, has come up with a draft amendment, in which he has proposed that the principal be empowered to take disciplinary action against students or staff irrespective of the Governing Body’s opinion.

He has also called for giving a major say to the CNI in the functioning of the college, handing over the powers to appoint faculty and admissions to its Supreme Council (SC) and recasting the composition of the Governing Body (GB).

The amendment also proposes to replace St Stephen’s College Trust, which runs the college, with a St Stephen’s Educational Society that will have the power to establish Stephen’s-like private institutions across the country.

Masih, who is also the member of the GB that will take a decision on the issue during a meeting scheduled on Monday, said: “If there are apprehensions about the amendments, all will be discussed during the meeting and amendment will be passed only if there is a majority.”

This is not for the first time that the CNI has come out in Thampu’s support.

In July this year, when the demands for Thampu’s resignation grew shrill amidst allegations of shielding a professor accused of molesting a research scholar, the CNI had come out with a statement, saying that they had full faith in Thampu’s leadership. 

A member of the CNI, who did not wish to be named, said: “There is nothing wrong in the amendments proposed, at least we don’t think so. If the powers are more centralised, the functioning will also be streamlined. It is possible to run one college with scattered division of power but if the number of colleges has to expand, this needs to be done.”

While the meeting is scheduled for Monday, no consultations have so far been held with the Delhi University and the University Grants Commission (UGC).

According to Delhi University statutes, any such move without consultation with the university’s Executive Council (EC) is in violation to the rules and might result in derecognition of the college.

Further, it may also result in the college losing funds from the UGC, which provides 95 per cent funding to the institution, with the remaining coming from the CNI-controlled St Stephen’s Trust. 
These concerns have also been raised by the college faculty who have petitioned the GB to defer the amendment process till the time Thampu retires.

“Thampu is due to retire in February 2016. If the proposed constitution is adopted, he will immediately become, along with the Chairman, the most powerful member of the SC just as his tenure ends. The proposed draft is not reflective of amendments but ‘dissolution’ of the Constitution. Also, it is important to study the legal and procedural ramifications involved,” the petition had said.

While the move to amend the constitution has also attracted the ire of the college alumni who have termed the proposal as an attempt to make St Stephen’s a “Christian ghetto”, Thampu has been 
maintaining that it is the Supreme Council’s decision to make the amendments and there has been no violation of procedures or law.
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