Ashley Tellis, a gay rights activist, feminist and self-described “shit-stirrer” denounced India’s repressive education practices after he was fired for his sexual orientation.
Tellis was an assistant professor at St. Joseph’s College of Arts and Sciences in Bengaluru. But, he says, the school’s principal fired him with no warning after students complained about Tellis being pro-LGBTQ.
Tellis took to Facebook to pen a fiery open letter. In the letter, Tellis talked about his dismissal, and also spoke about the dismal lack of academic freedom in the Indian education system.
He writes that the principal interrupted him in the middle of class to fire him on the spot:
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.”
Tellis goes on to blast the principal, a Jesuit, for his restrictive behavior:
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.
He goes on for a while. Then he turns to lament the students’ and teachers’ failure to rebel:
Yet students take all of this lying down. 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.
He points a finger at the parents, too.
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 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.
Tellis ends with a call for a revolt:
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.
For the whole post, go here.
(Header image via Facebook)