By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
It is often said that, “man is a selfish being,” an expression that is subject to all kinds of interpretations. For some, it means that man always thinks of himself at the expense of others, while others feel that it means that man is only concerned about those things that really matter to him. Whatever the interpretation, one thing that is clear is that man is always concerned about those things that concern him or things that he has interest in because of certain reasons.
For this, whenever such things appear to him, man is always concerned about such situation. Even in the field of journalism, there is an element of news known as, “proximity,” which says that people are more interested in things closer to them than things that are afar or things of no interest to them. This means man would always develop certain interest in certain things for some reasons.
Today, I speak of man being a “selfish being,” in a positive sense in that whatever a person is connected to, whether it is his community, alma mater(former school,) tribal background or affiliation, fraternal association, he always develops a special affection towards it whenever there is something that brings it to public disrepute or ridicule.
I am referring to this issue of being selfish because of what I read in the DAILY OBSERVER Newspaper yesterday. In one of its front page stories yesterday, captioned: “GRADES FOR SALE AT UL?” The paper reported how some students during senior English 411 which saw mass failure of students, for which these flunkies were asked by the instructor to pay LD100 to make a pass, which is referred to as “to cross the bridge.”
Additionally, the paper also reported similar situation about Accounting 003, a prerequisite course for students wanting to do accounting course for a degree in accounting. It was reported that for this accounting course, the instructor is requesting US$10.00 from students to pass the course. One student, who reportedly failed the course three times under the same instructor, paid the amount and is hoping to get a passing grade this time under the same instructor, after three attempts to pass the course.
As part of a professional requirement, the paper contacted some individuals who are aware of this ugly situation on the campus. For his part, the vice president for University Relations, Dr. S. Momolu Gataweh, said such information of students paying for grades was not available to him. Admittedly, the dean of the college, under which English falls, said such information has been brought to his attention and that he would investigate the matter.
Frankly, as I said from the beginning of man being selfish, so was I yesterday upon seeing the headline in that newspaper. Even though there were about four major stories on the front page of that newspaper, I was particularly attracted to the one that concerns the University of Liberia. This was so because I am a proud product of that university, affectionately referred to as the Lux in Tenebris (light in darkness).
As someone who got three different academic credentials from that university, I am always concerned with anything that tends to bring the university into disgrace. I first got a certificate in mass communication, and later got a degree in Mass Communication, followed by another degree in Law from that very university.
And so whenever its name is mentioned in such a negative way, I become concerned because such casts a negative aspersion on the institution, and even its graduates. This does not mean that the graduates were part of such academic fraud, but it still has some effects on them, as former students. As a student of communication and someone still in the media, this is bad public relations for our institution and us.
The situation can be likened to being part of a graduating class, only to discover some of the graduates passed through the “back door,” meaning, they graduated fraudulently. Honestly, as one of the graduates, one will be embarrassed over that. This is obtaining in this matter as former graduates or students to hear that teachers were selling grades. This is complete embarrassment to this institution which has been the macrocosm of the larger society.
What concerns me most is the fact that such a situation is taking place in a senior course, 411 which is advanced writing or advanced composition, which is an important course to prepare would-be graduates in the area of writing and reporting. Today, there are lots of concerns that college graduates cannot even write simple report, and so to hear this happening at the nation’s highest institution of learning is rather regrettable.
Whatever the situation, I am happy that the dean of the college, whose name was not mentioned in the story of the Daily Observer, admitted that he heard about this and is to investigate this alleged fraudulent act on the parts of some teachers.
I support the issue being investigated because under our jurisprudence, an accused is innocent until proven guilty. Today, I refer to this as an allegation until there are sciential of evidence to prove the allegation that an English teacher is requesting for money to give students undesired grades to “cross the bridge”, and that there is another teacher in the accounting department, who is also requesting US$10 for students to “cross the bridge.”
I like the phrase of “crossing the bridge,” but it should be done in the proper way by making sure that only students who deserve to cross the bridge should be allowed to do so through their academic performance, and not those who undeservingly want to do so. To do this for those who do not deserve it, will be a disservice to the country’s educational system and an act to institutionalize mediocrity.
As it is known, the university is considered, ‘light in darkness,’ therefore, it cannot be seen as trying to conversely keep people in darkness. Hence, the authorities should seriously look into these damaging allegations of academic fraud allegedly being perpetrated by some instructors of the institution. The probe should be very easy, as the courses have been identified and also the particular sections.
This should be treated as business as usual. Again, I like the phrase of ‘crossing the bridge,’ but let it be done the right way because to undeservingly “cross the bridge,” will only produce miscreants, unqualified and incompetent people, something that would cast an aspersion on that good university.
As I end this piece, I do not want to go into the “politics” that this is taking place because Dr. Brownell who the story said was very tough on the teachers is no longer at the university based on protest by the faculty, who several months ago, demanded her resignation, as one of the conditions to return to class, at a time of a stay home action by the faculty. Whether this is true or not, is not the focus of this piece.
Also, as I was about to end, I received information that this was also happening at other institutions. One student told me that at one institution, some of the teachers give grades based on the amount given by the students. He said if students give more, they get “A’, which represents America; less amount, “B,’ which means Great Britain and “C’ which is the least, which is referred to China. But I am not interested in those institutions, except the University of Liberia, which is my Alma Mater.
Until I hear the outcome of that probe, and if necessary, to weed out those unscrupulous teachers, I Rest My Case.