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After backlash, St Stephen’s principal apologises for ‘suspending’ students for missing morning assembly

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New Delhi, Feb 20:  John Varghese, the principal of Delhi’s reputed St. Stephen’s College, apologised to the first-year students and their parents on Tuesday after over 100 students were reportedly threatened to be barred from appearing for the second semester examination for not attending the morning assembly.

In an email to the parents, the college authorities had said that the move to bar students from appearing for the exams was being taken as a consequence of their suspension due to low attendance in the morning assembly.

The students were reportedly suspended for not attending the morning prayers.

The decision drew sharp opposition from the students and a section of teachers, who said that making the students listen to religious preachings against their will and forcing them to pray, possibly against their beliefs, is unethical and contrary to the liberal ethos of any institution of higher learning.

The principal, meanwhile, said, “On Saturday, February 17, an email was sent from my office. It was a miscommunication, incorrectly worded and I sincere apologie 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.

“Every college has its unique set of practices and traditions, and St Stephen’s is no different. The morning assembly 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.

“Any former student will vouch for the fact that the morning assembly in the college is not a religious exercise. It is more an occasion when the junior members of the college are encouraged to listen to men and women of character, and experienced people who share their wisdom and knowledge for the betterment of the young people in the college.”

The principal said the morning assembly is also an occasion for junior members to showcase their achievements, present their thoughts and ideas in front of their peers and improve their presentation skills.

“The college encourages all junior members to participate in the morning assembly, as mentioned in the college prospectus. First year students are particularly expected to be there for the morning assembly to understand the history, traditions and practices which make the college the outstanding institution that it is.

“In the light of the mis-worded email that was sent, without my clearing it, please note now that there will be no suspension with regard to attendance for the morning assembly. Parents are important stakeholders in the broad-based, wholesome education that the 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,” the principal added.

He further said, “I believe that parents need to know and be aware of the progress and activities of their wards, including areas where they fall behind. The attendance at the morning assembly is one such area, much like the academic attendance, academic performance and sometimes even personal matters which impact the junior member. I will, therefore, continue to meet parents in the larger interest of the junior members, as and when required.

“Some parents have met me and have understood the situation. If you are a parent, and have not met me yet, please fix an appointment to meet me. If you stay outside Delhi and are unable to meet me in person, please feel free to contact my secretary through your ward at a specific time which my office shall indicate, and I can then discuss the matter with you. I hope this clarifies the situation and settles the matter. Junior members are encouraged to attend the morning assembly and parents will continue to be kept informed of the performance of their wards.”

IANS

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