Stephen’s suspends students for skipping assembly, revokes it later

  • | Wednesday | 21st February, 2024

After receiving criticism for suspending over 100 students and barring them from appearing for examination for not attending the morning assembly, the Stephens College on Tuesday withdrew the decision clarifying that the email sent to students was incorrectly worded and miscommunicated. In an email addressed to students and their parents, Stephens College principal John Varghese clarified that there will be no suspension with regard to attendance for the morning assembly.  On Saturday, 17th February 2024 an email was sent from my office. It was a miscommunication, incorrectly worded and my sincere apologies for that. I was also not copied on that email, a practice which is normally followed when I instruct my office to communicate, in written mode, on my behalf. Let me therefore set right the matter through this email, the email by Varghese read.  The principal also stated that the morning assembly held in the college is an old tradition and not organised as a religious exercise while pointing that small portions from several religious and philosophical texts are read out during the assembly.  Every college has its unique set of practices and traditions, and St Stephens College is no different. The morning assembly in College is an old tradition of the College. It is not a religious event even though small portions from several religious and philosophical texts are read out, he wrote in the email.  He added that students, especially those studying in first year, are expected to attend the morning assembly to understand the history, traditions and practices of the college.  Varghese also said the email was addressed to parents of students to keep them informed about the performance of their wards.  Parents are important stakeholders in the broad-based, wholesome education that College provides, and it is in this spirit that parents were addressed in the incorrectly worded email. Inadvertent and serious errors crept into that email. My apologies for that, he wrote, while adding that the college will continue to engage with parents of students for their welfare.  Varghese further asked parents who were not able to meet him to fix an appointment with his office to discuss the matter with them.  Students are encouraged to attend the morning assembly and parents will continue to be kept informed of the performance of their wards, he said.  Earlier in the day, teachers and students raised concern over suspension of first year students and an email barring them from attending second semester examination for not attending morning assembly at the college.  The students said their parents were asked to meet the principal over the issue failing which the students were barred from sitting for the exam.  The students had said setting up an appointment was not feasible for many since their parents do not live in Delhi-NCR and, hence, it wasnt possible for them to travel all the way to Delhi at short notice due to prior commitments, scheduling issues, and financial issues.  Regrettably, due to non-compliance with the request, I inform you that the students will not be allowed to sit for the upcoming examination as consequences of the suspension, the email sent to the students parents and guardians read.  The students claimed that their attempts to fix appointments without their guardians were also rejected.  The move drew flak from all quarters including teachers from the college who said it was against university rules to force students to take part in a religious activity. The teacher had also demanded disciplinary action against the person concerned who sent the email. Sanjeev Grewal, head of the colleges economics department, said in an email dated February 20 (Tuesday) to Principal Varghese, I am quite shocked to know that a large number of students have been suspended from college and it has been threatened that they will also be debarred from appearing in the examinations. In my opinion, students can be debarred from appearing in the examinations only on the grounds explicitly stated in the university rules and regulations. To the best of my knowledge, the shortage of attendance in the morning college assembly is not a ground for debarring students from appearing in the examinations. The morning assembly is a convention specific to St. Stephens College and is not recognized by the university (not to talk of it being a requirement for appearing in the examinations), nor does the failure to attend morning assembly, in my humble opinion, constitute a legitimate ground for suspension from the college, the HOD added.

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