New Delhi, Apr 20: St Stephen's Principal Valson Thampu has described the ongoing row over the banning of a student e-zine as "vandalism by old boys" and asserted that the college's character in the episode stands "vindicated".
In an open letter to the alumni entitled, "Suspension Imbroglio -The Takeaways", Thampu says, "the recent unpleasantness over St Stephen's Weekly issue is essentially vandalism by some old boys and those with money and clout". [Suspended St Stephen's student e-zine editor moves court against college]
Saying that "the mindset of vandalism is the very opposite of the learning outlook", Thampu held that "the character of the college stands vindicated... (in the) recent turmoil that was thrust upon it".
"As an academic community we can take pride in emerging from it stronger and clearer. I sense mounting respect for the college everywhere," he adds.
The issue, he said, should not be viewed as an aspect of the infringement of the freedom of speech but from the point of view of maintaining discipline in the college.
"The question of disciplining a student in the college has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with 'freedom of thinking and speaking'. It has to do with the link between education and character formation...
"We are NOT here to train young people in the art of taking others for a ride. Or, using intimidation and coercion... Or, trying to undermine an institution while benefiting from it," he said.
Attacking the alumni for criticising him without getting to the bottom of the matter, the principal said, "When the news of my deciding to postpone the publication of the proposed weekly to July was misrepresented as a "ban", both Justice (Manmohan) Sarin and Dr (SY) Quraishi got worried... So concerned were they that they did not bother to check on the facts before taking a stand on the matter.
They acted out of fear for what could happen to me." Thampu concluded by saying it was not his credibility that was tested during the entire row but that of the institution.
"What is being put to the test is not Valson's strength or credibility. It is the character of St Stephen's College. Rest assured, THE COLLEGE WILL ENDURE AND OVERCOME. It already has..." he said.
Thampu had ordered the suspension of a student e-zine started by four students for allegedly not seeking clearance on its content before the edition's release. While three members of the students had tendered an apology, the editor, Devansh Mehta, had refused to do the same.
The college then suspended Mehta for 10 days on disciplinary grounds, but the student secured a stay on the order from Delhi High Court.
An alumni group of the college has slammed Thampu's open letter as 'derogatory' and 'contentious'.
"It is unfortunate that Thampu has not taken very kindly to High Court orders on the petition of Mehta. It is shameful that after having damaged the St Stephen's College as an institution, he has the temerity to paint himself as a victim," the Association of Old Stephanians, which is not recognised by the college, said in a statement today.