EDITORIAL: Protecting the Academic Integrity of UL

A LOT HAS been said about the decay in the education sector of Liberia but the deteriorating state of education in the country was epitomized by the news of the academic dishonesty going on at the University of Liberia involving two students who allegedly bribed a staff in the office of a Professor at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, Francis Morris Allison, to alter their grades of a course they flunked which allowed them to graduate during the recent convocation.

WHAT IS EVEN more worrying is that these two persons who are now graduates will be practicing in a profession where integrity should matter most, as they will become custodians for the dispensation of justice and the rule of law, a profession that frowns on entertaining any form of criminal compromise as a quid pro quo for favors sought and granted. In order words, the legal profession must be a beacon of hope in terms of truth, honesty, integrity and the protection of the sanctity of the society.

WE SEE THE reckless behavior of the students and the secretary in Professor Allison’s office as a complete let down from the peak of academia in this country, even as numerous public condemnations continue to flow against the culprits’ shady dealings.

WE WANT TO seize this opportunity to rebuke this national embarrassment and call on the administration of the University of Liberia to immediately launch an investigation into the saga with the view of ascertaining the facts surrounding the case and prosecuting those found guilty. If it is discovered that the two individuals are actually guilty, then the University should exercise all its power relative to its charter to repair the damage done to the image of the institution even if it will mean revoking the degrees already awarded to the two undeserving graduates.

CURIOUSLY ENOUGH, THERE seems to be a mute indifference being exhibited by the UL authority and this attitude is enough to give credence to what is being said in some quarters that the authority is deeply aware of the academic fraud which could be part of other integrity issues being tied to the institution including the possession of fake degrees among some lecturers teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate level of UL.

WE ARE AWARE that far before the two persons were conferred with the degrees during the recent 103rd convocation, Prof. Allison had raised the alarm and reported the case straight to the Major Crimes Division of the Liberia National Police to alert them of the alleged crime and called upon the authority to launch an investigation. The fact that the professor first contacted the security authority before the authority of UL leaves one to believe that she does not trust the UL authority to render any impartial investigation in the premise which could lead to initiating a probe and finishing it to a logical conclusion.

WE JUST HOPE that the UL authority is seeing beyond the negative impression hanging over the name and integrity of the institution. The immediate negative impact is that UL will be seen as a place where academic credentials are cheaply marketed for little or nothing, and that any other graduate from the institution should be seen as a possible suspect of academic fraud, mainly parting with money and getting your degrees.

SECONDLY, DEGREES FROM UL will soon be rejected by foreign institutions for graduates who may want to go for further studies because they will be construed as products of substandard and compromised learning environments. The impact of this will be hard to handle because virtually all the universities in this country are challenged when it comes to the availability of qualified teachers and requisite facilities to enhance quality education. We are hopeful that the university will not be reduced to this stage.

WE WILL ALSO urge the national government through the Liberia National Police to exert every means necessary to get to the bottom of the case and prosecute all those involved. It was not a mistake that Prof. Allison, as a seasoned lawyer who has played a major role in the dispensation of justice, to report the case to the police; she is convinced that it is the right way to go because in other countries, academic fraud is treated as a major crime that the state takes custody of such cases for proper litigation and ours should not be treated as an exception.

WE ARE EXERTING our energy on this particular case because it has become a commonplace in this country that some students no longer see the value of hard work and honesty in their educational sojourn, and hence they prefer to participate in all forms of academic fraud to pass their examinations at all cost. They do this because excelling in their examinations is a prerequisite for graduation, leading to securing a white-collar job. To these students, what they studied and learnt is not as important as how they passed their examinations to graduate. When students are committed to hard work, they engage in all sorts of academic misconduct and dishonesty sometimes in collaboration with their willing lecturers to earn grades they did not work for. This phenomenon has destroyed the Liberia education system and further reduced the falling standard of education in the country to an abysmal level.

WE BELIEVE THAT high-quality graduates can influence a country’s developmental needs by providing the needed workforce to fill major manpower gaps, and design and implement programs that can ginger development imperatives. In addition, they can contribute to the entrepreneurial development of the country, thereby reducing dependency on government-paid jobs, making them creators of jobs by engaging young scholars in innovation and driving and emancipating the country from poverty and social issues.

FOR ANY NATION to become self-reliant, self-sufficient, and scientifically and technologically developed, the works of their institutions must tell on the products of such institutions, and what they can offer to the society to contribute to that country. This is the major challenge UL must face and address in overcoming all the pitfalls hanging on the academic environment, especially given the unfortunate news of individuals using money to influence their results in examinations.

THE BALL IS in the court of the UL administration to address this academic fraud now so as to save the institution from an imminent desecration on the one hand, and on the other hand save the country from bad products occasioned by the creeping culture of students giving lecturers or staffs money for grades and degrees.

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