The weekly e-zine, which was started by a group of four students from the college, went live on March 7 and registered over 2000 hits on an interview of Valson Thampu...
St. Stephen’s College Principal Valson Thampu, facing flak from the alumni for “curbing” freedom of speech by suspending a student-run e-zine weekly, has defended the move saying it is in accordance with the institution’s discipline norms.
In an open letter titled, “St.Stephen’s and freedom of thought-what I wish I did not have to write,” Thampu has said, “I feel greatly embarrassed not so much by the attack mounted on me as by the awkwardness of some of the alumni cutting such a sorry figure, intellectually, in public.”
The weekly e-zine, which was started by a group of four students from the college, went live on March 7 and registered over 2000 hits on an interview of Thampu, following which he ordered suspension of the publication for not taking his clearance for the issue.
He had also appointed a one-man disciplinary committee to look into the matter.
The move had invited criticism from reputed college alumni including former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) SY Quraishi and former Delhi Lokayukta Justice Manmohan Sarin, who had requested Thampu to reconsider his decision which they thought was ‘extreme’ and ‘disproportionate’.
“This is the tradition and discipline of the college, which is not of my invention.It is not a draconian measure freely improvised to stifle free thinking! The likely consequence, now or later, of an unregulated online publication put in the public domain in the name of the college could be enormous.And it is my duty to mind the interests of the Institution,” Thampu said in the letter.
Thampu further wrote that publishing the interview without waiting for his clearance, the transcript of which was mailed to him, “was, apart from other things, a gross betrayal of trust. It also flouted the basic discipline and core tradition of the college.”
“We cannot have different rules for different societies and be arbitrary in dealing with the total life of the college. The principal was, thus, left with no option but to disallow what promised to be a dishonest and disruptive venture,” he said.
At the end of the recounting is a note from the remaining three founders of St. Stephen’s Weekly, two from second year and one from first, who, Thampu says, had warned him that their senior was talking to the media about the magazine because they “got cheated.”
Devansh Mehta, editor and founding member of the magazine had said in his defence, “We had not sought any permission from the administration before starting the weekly but we did inform the principal that we are launching such an e-zine but no objections were raised then.
He even agreed for an interview and ‘self-appointed’ himself as the Staff Advisor for the weekly.
“As instructed by him, we had sent him a transcript of the interview before publishing but after we did not hear from him, we went ahead with the interview inviting the action from college principal,” he said.
Thampu’s open letter, however, carries a purported statement sent by the remaining three members of the group to Thampu saying, “We would like to inform you that one of our co-founders, Devansh Mehta has contacted the media to run an article on the suspension of St.Stephen’s Weekly.
“We tried our best to persuade him to not involve the press but he is going against our wishes.We would just like to let you know that we do not support his action and have played no part in it,” he said.