Attacking Members Of The LGBTQ Community & Other Offences That Could Get You Expelled From Legon

University of Ghana students at lectures. Photo credit: UG.EDU.GH

The University of Ghana, Legon is a leading tertiary institution in Ghana and Africa for that matter.

The university is one of the leading centres of education in the country and each year, tens of thousands of students apply for admissions to various programmes offered by the university.

This creates a community that needs rules and regulations to make sure that things are running smoothly.

While the rules and regulations are also directed at the staff and faculty, a lot of it is also directed to the students who are also referred to as ‘Junior Members’ of the university community.

Days ago, a student of the Kwame Nkrumah Univesity of Science and Technology (KNUST) was rusticated for two years for his involvement in the installing of a traditional leader of one of the halls of residence of the university.

This sparked a conversation on whether the university applied the right sanction for the alleged offence that the student had reportedly committed. While some saw the punishment as being too harsh, it left us wondering the kind of actions other universities in Ghana deem to be wrong and warrant any form of punishment.

In our attempt to understand this, we had a look at the student handbook for the students of the University of Ghana.

This handbook is meant to among other things prescribe the codes of conduct expected of students or junior members of the university. It spells out the protections that are available and how students can seek redress.

It also dictates how the university would take action whenever it deems that any of its rules and regulations have been broken.

While examining the University of Ghana handbook, it was realised that the university has outlined a lot of actions that are deemed as offences and it has also outlined possible punitive measures that could be handed down to members who break the rules.

However, unlike the Ghana criminal code where each offence comes with its own prescribed punitive measure, that is not the case for the University of Ghana handbook.

This then suggests that when a junior member carries out an action that is later determined to be one of the many offences outlined by the university, the form of punitive action that would apply is meant to be determined by the disciplinary board. This gives the board a shopping list of punishments to choose from.

The university has outlined 9 possible sanctions that could be applied by the board and a student is found to have committed an offence. While some of them are purely about academic infractions, others go beyond that.

According to the handbook, “one or more of the following sanctions may be imposed by a Board upon the conviction of any person:
i. an oral or written reprimand;
ii. an order for the resubmission of the piece of academic work in respect of which the offence was
committed, for evaluation, such a sanction shall be imposed only for minor offences and where the
student has committed no previous offence;
iii. assignment of a grade of zero or a failure for the piece of academic work in respect of which the
offence was committed;
iv. a reduction of the final grade in the course in respect of which the offence was committed;
v. denial of privileges to use any facility of the University, including library and computer facilities;
vi. a monetary fine;
vii. suspension from a course or courses, a programme, an academic unit or division, or the University
for such a period of time up to five years as may be determined by the Disciplinary Board;
viii. expulsion from the University. Expulsion shall mean that the student shall be permanently denied
registration in any University programme;
ix. disqualification from contesting elections or removal from any office in the University;

It, therefore, begs the question, what is considered an offence by the university?

While the university defers to the Ghanaian Criminal Code to determine what is an offence, it also outlines certain actions that are specific to the university.

For instance, the says it is an offence to “engage in a course of vexatious conduct that is directed at one or more specific individuals, and that is based on the race, ancestry, place of birth, origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, sex, sexual orientation, creed, age, marital status, family status, disability, receipt of
public assistance or record of offences of that individual or those individuals; that is known to be unwelcome; and that exceeds the bounds of freedom of expression or academic freedom as these are
understood in University policies and accepted practices, including but not restricted to
those explicitly adopted.” Please note the sexual orientation, which in this case can include any member of the university community that identifies as a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) plus community.

The university also identifies 12 academic offences which include when a student, knowingly:
i. to forge or in any other way alter or falsify any document or evidence required by the University,
or to circulate or make use of any such forged, altered or falsified document, whether the
document or record be in print or electronic form;
ii. to represent, without acknowledgement of its authorship by another, an expression of an idea or
work of another in any academic examination or semester test or in connection with any other
form of academic work;
ii. to submit, without the knowledge and approval of the instructor to whom it is submitted, any
academic work for which credit has previously been obtained or is being sought in another course
or programme of study in the University or elsewhere;
iv. to submit any academic work containing a purported statement of fact or reference to a source
which has been concocted;
v. to engage in the sale of unpublished academic lecture material, such as lecture notes, handouts,
slides without authority;
vi. to gain access to or procure or cause such access to be gained to any office or other facility of the
University or University official for purposes of depositing, altering or substituting examination
material for the benefit of the student or any other person;
vii. to steal a colleague‟s assignment; or
viii. to steal a colleague‟s answer script.
ix. to forge or in any other way alter or falsify any academic record or document, circulate or make
use of any such forged, altered or falsified record, whether the record be in print or electronic
form; or
x. to engage in any form of academic cheating, dishonesty, misconduct, fraud or misrepresentation
not herein otherwise described, in order to obtain academic credit or other academic advantage of
any kind.

One other thing to note is that when a “graduate of the University may be charged with any of the above offences committed knowingly while he or she was an active student, when in the opinion of the University, the offence would have resulted in a sanction had it been detected at the time it was committed.”

This could lead to the withdrawal of the degree awarded.

While some of the offences were a given knowing the general understanding of what was considered right in the Ghanaian context, we still saw that some of the offences were not known by the students.

Talking to about some of our findings, Jacob, who is a final year distance education student of the university said he had no idea the university had expressly identified harm to people based on their sexual orientation as a crime. “In my opinion, this is more than the Ghanaian constitution which doesn’t even mention sexual orientation,” he said.

Mabel, a freshman at the university, who is currently writing her end of semester exam, was shocked that students might be breaking the university’s codes of conduct when they make copies of lecture notes and sell them.

Louis, not his real name, had no idea LGBTQ people are protected in Legon. He said he has never felt the university was a safe space for the LGBTQ community. “Maybe, judging by the current climate, the university should be a little vocal and get its own lecturers and others to order then because it clearly wants to be a safe space for the community.”

After the conversations with the students, one thing was clear though, a lot of them do not know the details of the handbook that is meant to guide their stay at the university.


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