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Mumbai: Trustee says ‘not ok’ on principal’s social media activity

Updated on: 29 May,2024 07:00 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Dipti Singh |

Chancellor Samir Somaiya addresses stakeholders, justifies management’s stance and emphasises the need to align with institution’s principles

Mumbai: Trustee says ‘not ok’ on principal’s social media activity

Parveen Shaikh with trustee Sameer Somaiya in December 2023

For the first time since the controversy surrounding the termination of the principal of The Somaiya School citing to her social media activities, Samir Somaiya, Chancellor of Somaiya Vidyavihar University and trustee of the Somaiya Trust, has finally addressed the issue to justify the management’s decision. In an email to internal stakeholders, including staff, parents, and students, Somaiya explained that the school management has the authority to question employees on matters raised by stakeholders, especially when there is a misalignment with the institution’s core principles.

He emphasised that taking appropriate action is essential to safeguard the interests of the school and its students. In an email to the staff and parents associated with the institute Somaiya wrote: “Earlier this month, we were in the press extensively. We have faced a situation that has challenged the alignment of certain actions with our cherished principles of knowledge, inclusivity, and service. The social media activities of a former principal, until recently a member of our leadership team at The Somaiya School, were misaligned with the institution’s principles.  What is strictly an administrative matter is being given a political colour. It’s not acceptable for a head of a school to like a tweet that uses vulgar four letter words. It’s not ok for a head of a school to like a tweet or a cartoon that offends or insults an entire community based on religion, caste, language, race, nationality or any other basis.

It’s not ok for a head of a school to like a tweet that abuses another country. It’s not ok for a head of a school to describe anyone, let alone people occupying high office in the country in derogatory and insulting language. It’s not ok for a head of a school to like tweets by institutions that may be perceived by many as supporting violence.” Raising further questions about the former principal’s social media activity, Somaiya further stated: “This behaviour is even more concerning if the same social media account in question is also used by the head of the school to speak about the school and its achievements. In this case, it also concerns the conflation or perceived merging of an individual’s personal opinion with that of the organization they serve. It’s also not ok for the head of an institution to defend the above behaviour as freedom of expression. 

Freedom of expression is not absolute and comes with responsibilities as all of us know from the communities we live in and the organisations we serve.” Somaiya’s email to the internal stakeholders at the institute comes a day after mid-day reported about people claiming to be well-wishers and sympathisers of the Shaikh, coming together to move an online petition on in support of her. The group, which calls themselves Voice of India (Justice in the petition), has asked the Somaiya Trust to reconsider their decision, questioning if the credibility of the website that published the article was taken into consideration before the decision to terminate her contract was made.

Since May 25, the petition has exceeded its initial goal of a thousand signatures, with 1,392 people having signed it by the evening of May 26. The number of signatures on the petition on May 28 evening reached 3,312. Somaiya further wrote: “Heads of schools, in particular, have great influence on minds as young as age 3 and have to be particularly sensitive in setting the right example of influence in the physical and digital world. The school management has a right to question its employees on the issues raised by stakeholders in light of the above, and take appropriate action to safeguard the interests of the school and its students. We have been in the service of education since 1942. The Somaiya School has blossomed because of its legacy, leadership at all levels, and the entire team of teachers and staff. We will continue to build an environment that upholds our tradition and build great citizens of India and the world.”

According to sources, Somaiya’s email to all stakeholders, parents, and students, was an effort not only to clarify the management’s stance on the issue but also to justify the decision, which has been questioned by many parents and students. Somaiya’s email became a talking point in several parent groups on social networking sites. “I appreciate that the management has finally come out to openly speak about the matter. We have been relying on media reports and hearsay. The students love their principal, and her termination came as a shock to many. I hope this ends soon,” said a parent. When contacted, officials from the Somaiya trust refused to comment on the issue.

The timeline of the case
After an article on April 25 accused Shaikh of liking and commenting on tweets and posts that were pro-Hamas, anti-Hindu, and critical of the BJP regime, Shaikh claimed that on April 26, the management asked her to resign. On May 4, Shaikh was asked to explain. On May 7, days after Shaikh revealed that she was asked to resign by the institute’s management, the Somaiya Trust announced that it had “discontinued association” with her, stating that her social media activities were misaligned with the values and ethos promoted by the Vidyavihar school. 

No of people who signed the petition

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