Sex-for-marks scandal: Harassment prevalent in OAU, says activist

  • It’s a moral burden on us – Lecturers
  • Why we don’t complain to mgt after sexual assaults – Female students

Some lecturers at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, have called on the authorities of the institution to thoroughly investigate the allegations of sexual harassment recently leveled against one of their colleagues, Prof. Richard Akindele, by a female student.

The lecturers under the aegis of the Congress of University Academics, said that investigating the allegations against Akindele had become imperative because the issue had put them under a heavy moral burden.

They argued that a proper investigation of the allegations against their colleague, which should be followed by making the reports of the probe panel public, would be needed to save their names and reputation.

 

In OAU, this matter is so prevalent that not a session passes without a female student in one department or the other experiencing sexual assaults or pressure from their male lecturers

 

Last week, the social media was awash with a leaked audio of a conversation between a female student and Akindele, with the latter demanding five rounds of sex from the former before she could be given a pass mark in a course she failed.

The accused lecturer, said to be a professor of Management and Accounting in the Faculty of Administration of the university, is also said to be a pastor of a church in Ile-Ife.

But speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Chairman of the Congress, Dr. Niyi Sunmonu, condemned any form of sexual harassment by lecturers, stressing that lecturers were supposed to mold students and not to molest them.

Sunmonu said, “Any form of sexual harassment is not good for the image of lecturers and that of the university, because as lecturers, we are supposed to mold the lives of the students. Our stand is that the university management should investigate this matter to establish the truth and as I gathered, the university has set up a committee to investigate it. So, as a union, we have a duty to ascertain and be sure that the correct thing is done.

“I won’t be able to comment on the level of the prevalence, but what we expect that the university should do is to collate all these information, investigate and establish the veracity. It will do the university and the country a lot of good if this scourge is exterminated and this attitude becomes a thing of the past.

“As thinkers, we need to first and foremost establish the truth in all this and once that is done, we will keep record of that and that is when we can talk of prevalence. But with this very one, we implore the university management to keep on with the investigation and in a very short time, come up with the result of the investigation so that lecturers could be relieved of the moral burden on them, because everyone has been painted with the same brush with this kind of allegation.

“I strongly feel it’s a moral burden on the academic community, because when these allegations come up, it put much burden on the lecturers. So, for that reason, we are on the management’s neck as a union, that this issue should be thoroughly investigated and the result made public so that we can know where to take it up from there.”

VICTIMS SPEAK

Meanwhile, following the to sex-for-marks scandal that is currently rocking the university, some female students of the institution who had at one time or the other been allegedly harassed sexually by their male lecturers, have explained why they didn’t report their ordeal to the school authorities.

Some of the alleged victims, who spoke with our correspondent, revealed that students, especially the female folks, lacked confidence in the authorities to prosecute allegations of sexual assaults to a logical end.

They said they fear being witch hunted by other lecturers in the same department the case must have emanated from, alleging that most of the lecturers had form a cult or clique and would usually support their erring colleagues to punish any female student who dared report them to the school authorities.

A 400-level student in the Department of English of the institution, who simply identified herself as Rebecca because of the sensitive nature of the issue, said some of the lecturers in the university were even in the habit of demanding sex from physically challenged female students.

She said, “Most of our lecturers do not fear God; they are mean and so wicked. Two years ago, a graduating female student of my department was sexually abused by her project supervisor. This female student is physically impaired and no one could imagine that she would still fall prey like other able- bodied female students.

“We can’t complain to the university because we know they will not do anything about it. We have some lecturers, especially senior ones like professors, who have powers to influence the decisions of the management. Most of these lecturers already have cliques and if you dare expose them by reporting to the management, they will gang up and frustrate your academic pursuit.”

Another female student in the Faculty of Agriculture, OAU, said 70 per cent of male lecturers in her department had been engaged in the sex-for-marks scandal.

According to her, “My friend, who failed a course last year, went to complain to our lecturer because she studied hard for the course and did not expect to fail it. But on getting to the man’s office, the lecturer demanded sex from her. All efforts to make this lecturer understand that it was not as if she was not a serious student and that something might have gone wrong while the results were being uploaded, fell on his deaf ears. She carried the course over because she couldnt offer her body.

“The irony of this issue is that once a girl offers her body for marks, other lecturers who are friends of the lecturer that had slept with the female student would be looking for ways to fail her so that they, too, can also quench their sexual urge with her. So, it’s difficult reporting to the management because one will regret it eventually.”

ACT NOW ENDEMIC – ACTIVIST

Corroborating the allegations against some lecturers by the female students, a graduate of OAU, Comrade Hasaan Taiwo Soweto, said the rate of sexual harassment on the institution’s campus and other tertiary institutions in the country, had become highly prevalent and endemic.

He added that students no longer had confidence in the management of the institution to address their complaints.

Soweto, who is the National Coordinator of Education Right Campaign, however, rejected the probe committee set up by the management and demanded an independent panel of investigation comprising students, lecturers, parents, NGOs, among other stakeholders.

He said, “We are demanding an independent probe panel consisting of elected representatives of students, staff unions, pro-women agenda NGOs, and organisations like ERC, ANSA and students working committee to probe this matter. We don’t have confidence in the university authorities to prove this scandal. Only independent probe panel comprising of stakeholders will unravel this matter and do justice to it.

“I think this recent shocking revelation is a sign of the endemic corruption in the university system, which for several years has not been tackled by the authorities of the different tertiary institutions and it also reflects the patriarchal nature of society, which sees women as the sex object of men.

“Because of the power lecturers have over female students, they see them as people they can use, depending on their desires and caprices. In OAU, this matter is so prevalent that not a session passes without a female student in one department or the other experiencing sexual assaults or pressure from their male lecturers. The only thing is that the university also covers this thing up.

Continuing, the activist said, “Don’t forget that just late last year, there was a scandal involving Dr. Funke Dizzan, a graduate of the university, who is a medical doctor outside the country who exposed a lecturer in the Department of Anatomy, who had pressured her for sex several years back while she was on campus. That lecturer is called Dr. Francis Fakoya; despite the fact that the university authorities promised to cooperate with the university in the United States, where that lecturer is working at the moment, in order to unravel the situation and find appropriate punishment for him, nothing has been heard about that case up till now.

“That is to show you how much the university authorities try to cover up matters like this so that it is only once in a while when you have brave students, who don’t mind the consequences and speak out, that you will hear something like that is happening in OAU. But it is endemic, it’s prevalent, it’s a patriarchal culture in the university system that must be put an end to, using this current situation.

“Unfortunately, there are no serious and genuine mechanisms put in place by the university management. The female students, who fall victim of this assault, do not have confidence in the university system. Don’t forget that this is the same university that is evicting students from hostels, throwing students into prison and suspending student activists for speaking up. The female students do not see university as their friend so that when they have an issue with a lecturer that involves pressure for sex, they don’t see the university authorities as treating their matters.

He further explained, “There is a precedent to this issue. In the 2006/2007 academic session of that university, there was a scandal that broke out involving one lecturer, Dr. N. C. Akindele. There is nobody who attended OAU between 1985 and 2007 who would not know Dr. Akindele for his notoriety in devouring female students at will, on that campus.”

VICTIMS SHIELD ERRING LECTURERS – VARSITY SPOKESMAN

But the OAU management has said no female student had ever reported any sexual harassment against any of its male lecturers.

The school authorities even expressed displeasure at what it described as the “continuous attitude” of female students shielding those sexually harassing them.

The Public Relations Officer of the university, Mr. Abiodun Olanrewaju, disclosed that the lady in the leaked audio had been identified and asked to write a formal report against Prof. Akindele, but had refused to do so.

Olanrewaju, who also explained that the management had already inaugurated a probe committee and had issued the accused professor a query on the allegations, claimed that the female student had been ignoring calls put to her phone and had refused to s how up in person to defend the allegations she had made against the lecturer.

He said the investigation committee was expected to submit its report within a week.

Olanrewaju said, “We had the conversation between two adults in the leaked audio. A male and a female and a particular name was mentioned there. We decided that we should swing into action because people alluded lecturer from OAU. Be that as it may, we have set a machinery in motion to unravel the veracity of the claims and to identify the characters involved.

“As I am speaking to you now, the management has taken a position and we will be working on that now. When the audio leaked, the Vice Chancellor, myself and few other principal officers, including the director of the legal system of the university, sat and took a decision. The VC inaugurated a committee to probe the allegations and gave them one week to submit their reports and after that, we will now know what to do.

“The university cannot presume to know everything. Every student is presumed to be an adult here. It is when the student makes a formal complainant that the university can take a formal action. We encourage students in our university to come up and tell us; we even told them to go and meet female lecturers to confide in them. We have not received any formal complainant against that man. We encourage students to always speak out, if they are sexually assaulted.