St Joseph’s College (Autonomous), Bengaluru, dismissed an associate professor of its English department for airing his ‘personal opinions’ in the classroom on March 9. The professor, Ashley Tellis, however, alleged that the sacking had to do with his criticism of the “undemocratic practices” on campus and possibly his sexual orientation.
“I got a call at 9.30 am in the middle of a class, asking me to come to the principal’s office. When I reached there, I was told by the principal that I was sharing my personal opinion with the students, and this was disturbing them. I was then told to leave the college premises immediately,” said Tellis, the sacked professor. He further alleged that the college authorities had not specified the ‘personal opinion’ for which he was dismissed. Tellis also said that the college had not given him a month’s notice before firing him, as required by his contract.
Speculating reasons for his dismissal, Tellis said, “It is possible that I was sacked because students felt comfortable about airing their opinions in my class, many of which were against some of the harsher rules prescribed by the college such as boys and girls not being allowed to share earphones or hug; boys not being allowed to wear ear studs; girls disallowed to colour their hair or wear clothes like leggings,” he said. Tellis added that the dismissal could also have to do with his sexual orientation.
The college authorities have, however, denied the allegations. “After holding several rounds of discussions, based on complaints lodged by disturbed students, the management decided to relieve Ashley Tellis. This has nothing to do with his sexual orientation. SJC has always expressed solidarity with sexual minorities. The college strongly condemns any move by Ashley to tarnish its image,” a college spokesperson told The Times of India.