The text below is the Facebook post of Ashley Tellis dated March 10
“So at 9:30 am on March 9 2017, while I am in the middle of a BCom Second Year class, I am asked to come down and meet the Principal of St. Joseph’s College of Arts and Sciences, Fr. Victor Lobo, immediately (so much for any respect for the teacher and classroom and the process of teaching and learning, from the Jesuits). Once there, he makes me wait for 10 minutes outside the office, while my students are waiting in class. Then he calls me in and tells me: “Students are disturbed by your personal opinions. The management has got to know of these opinions. I have been asked to relieve you with immediate effect.” “Really? What opinions?” I ask. “Students are very much disturbed by your opinions (sic). You were hired to teach English Literature. Not to give your personal opinions. Please sign these letters. Leave the college with immediate effect. No need to take any more classes. We will manage,” comes the reply. I remember my contract which says I can be removed “with no reasons assigned.” I get up and leave. I also remember that I need one month’s notice according to the contract. But never mind. Throughout this meeting, if anyone is disturbed, it is the Principal. He looks ashen-faced, his hands are shaking, his mouth is dry. I am not surprised by this. In classes, my students have talked about what they don’t like about this Principal, even as they love their college. This is my comeuppance for having those discussions.
This is the Principal who finds a boy and girl sharing headphones immoral and he penalises them for it. This is the Principal who finds a girl hugging a boy on his birthday offensive and penalises her asking what sort of family she comes from where people hug. This is the Principal who pulls students out of the exam, trauamtises them by confiscating their ID cards because they have long hair (boys), are wearing ear studs (boys), have colour in their hair (girls), have a tear in their jeans (boys and girls). This is the Principal who makes students buy concert tickets to raise funds for the college and if they don’t, informs then that they will not get their hall tickets for the exams. This is the Principal who forces students to pay Rs. 500 for the new college building, shaming them by pointing to how expensive their mobile phones are. This is the Principal who does not allow students to cut a cake on their birthdays. This is the Principal who says women, especially, must not to go to pubs. This is the Principal who tells students not to have any relationships out of family. This is the Principal who forces Christian students to go to mass or confiscates IDS and does not give them hall tickets. This is the Principal who says boys and girls should not go for films together. This is the Principal who allows teachers to not allow boys and girls to sit together. This is the Principal who does not like to see boys and girls walk together. This is the Principal who has draconian hostel rules for boys, let alone girls. I could go on but this is enough. This is the Principal whose justification for all this is that Christ University is doing this and we should not give the impression that we are liberal. This is the great Christ University where a student was raped by a priest a few years ago and not only was it hushed up, the student was further traumatised, blamed, forced to leave and she disappeared.
Yet students take all of this lying down. There is no Pinjra Tod in any of the St. Joseph’s institutions or indeed any institution in Bangalore. These rules apply to most of the Jesuit and Christian institutions all over Bangalore. Teachers take this lying down and have many of these rules applied to them too. They are viewed with suspicion and monitored through a spy network among students (how well Jesuits train their students!) some members of which doubtless reported on me as I have discussions with students in practically every class and in extra-curricular activities on these issues, issues they are very upset about, issues that affect their lives in terrible ways. These students are damaged and policed and surveilled and stunted.
Yet their parents love this happening to their kids. They agree to an SMS being sent to them every time their kids bunk one class. They silently cough up the money asked for buildings and concerts held to build buildings. They probably would love to police their children in similar ways at home and many probably do.
This is the network of family, school, college and institutions in general that stymie the growth of young minds. This is the Taliban with a liberal face.
When a teacher asks students to think, to think critically, to ask questions, to find out how much labourers doing the furious building on campus are being paid, to think about the implications of this Talibanisation of student lives on the gendered futures of the society we live in, to not be intimidated by threats of being asked to take a Transfer Certificate (TC) and leave if they don’t like things here, they are fired as their opinions are apparently “disturbing” the students. “The students are very much disturbed (sic),” I was told by this Principal who ostensibly has a PhD in English but has never taught an English class in college., who occasionally takes a Theology class and tells 18 years olds that reading fancy Literature in their elite Departments where even the teachers do not like them (entirely made up and putting students against teachers) does not help, that all they need to read is the Bible. That is the true and only Literature.
I wish the students were really disturbed. It is the job of the teacher to keep the student disturbed. If the student is not disturbed, how will anything change in the world? To be destabilised, to be disturbed is the achievement of the teacher. It is not a reason to fire a teacher.
My only hope is that this case will make students stand up for their rights: the right to a democratic education, the right to a context of democratic practice in education which the Karnataka government and the Constitution of India (which institutions, minority ones or otherwise, have to follow) guarantees not institutions that make up more and more bizarre rules and force them on students.
As for me, this is not a new story. This is not the first time this has happened to me and it will not be the last. But, unlike the students, I have not, am not and will not take it lying down.”