By Olabisi Deji-Folutile
Ordinarily, the expulsion of a 300 level Accounting student of Babcock University over a viral sex video should be stale by now, but for the expulsion of another set of undergraduates by the Federal University of Technology, Akure, barely a week after, thus bringing the Babcock matter on the front burner again. Apart from the fact that the two institutions meted out similar punishment to their erring students, both offences leading to the students’ expulsion were committed off-campus.
In the viral sex video, a female student of Babcock was seen having sexual intercourse with a man believed to be a lover, while the six expelled FUTA students, also in a viral video, were seen physically assaulting a 100 level student of the institution. Both institutions admitted that the actions leading to the students’ expulsion were committed off-campus. Babcock said the sexual act did not take place on its campus. It, however, insisted that its action on it was a demonstration of its commitment to its highest moral standard as a standard bearer for quality education in character, learning and service to humanity.
In the case of FUTA, the institution justified its action by quoting the provision of its handbook that forbids students from engaging in physical assaults or battery on another student outside the university premises. What seems to be of interest to me is the marked difference in the reaction to the two cases of expulsion on the social media. In the Babcock case, many online users questioned the grounds for expelling the female student more so when the sexual act did not take place on campus. They argued that the university could not forbid a student from engaging in sexual intercourse outside the territory of its institution. Besides, the viral video, some of them argued, was published without the girl’s consent and therefore she shouldn’t be punished for what she did not authorise. Others even think, as a faith-based institution, the university ought to rehabilitate the girl, work on her, until she becomes better in character.
Sadly, none of these arguments was advanced for the FUTA six. Indeed, the preponderance of opinion tends to justify the expulsion of the students for brutalising a fellow student. It’s interesting how people could take different positions on similar issues, justifying punishment for one and condemning the stand taken against the other. This article will focus mainly on the Babcock issue. The argument of those making case for the ex-Babcock student is that physical assault is an offence under Nigeria’s legal code, but no law forbids an adult from engaging in consensual sex in the nation’s law books.
Truly, physical assault is a crime but it’s difficult to state categorically that Nigerian laws permit two consensual adults to engage in the true sense of it. Prostitution, for example, is illegal in states that practise Islamic penal code. Similarly, operations or ownership of brothels are equally penalised under sections 223, 224, and 225 of the Nigerian Criminal Code, suggesting that the law of the land could also be used against adults for engaging in consensual sex. From the provisions of the law, it is obvious that while the Nigerian constitution guarantees free association, the Penal Code could be used to penalise men for meeting with prostitutes or prostitutes for meeting with their clients.
That is why I question the justification of the brouhaha over the expulsion of the ex-Babcock student seen in the viral sex video. No matter how logical the argument of those condemning her expulsion may sound, it may be difficult to sustain it especially when subjected to critical scrutiny. It is obvious Babcock does not go out of its way to monitor its students off-campus with the intention of punishing them for engaging in sexual acts.
Ordinary secondary school won’t dare to do that not to talk of a serious-minded university. I doubt if any institution, including the so-called mission universities have the capacity to monitor their students on and off campus. Monitoring them on campus is more than enough job on its own. How many parents of teenage adults can take up that burden on behalf of their children? If they do, is it necessary? I doubt. I guess these educational institutions simply presume that their students are innocent until proven otherwise. Knowing this, smart students abide by the rules and regulations of their institutions and everyone is happy. However, when it gets to a point where members of the public get to know of a student’s sexual exploits on the social media, it raises a moral burden on the institution, especially one that is known to be faith-based. The student’s rights at that point are subsumed under the power of the university in question.
That brings me to how some people talk about human rights as if they are restricted to some particular set of people in the society. That is intriguing. Everybody is entitled to their own rights in every human setting. This is basically the reason for having rules and regulations in every human setting. They guide people’s actions so that no one uses their own rights to injure others. These things are done to infuse sanity into the society, knowing that humans, as free beings, have the tendency to go overboard. Talking about other people’s rights, I believe parents and students who chose an institution like Babcock must have had their expectations. Some of them probably made that choice because of the decency the institution represents. Such people equally have the right to expect the university to live up to their expectations of it. Universities are not built for sexually active students alone. There are also students in higher institutions that are not interested in sex. As a matter of fact, some of them, no matter how few, could have vowed to remain either primary or secondary virgins until marriage. It is their choice. And they have a right to make whatever choice they like. Judging from the way people react to issues of sex on campuses on social media, it would appear as if some students have a right to do what they like and that others don’t also have a right to choose what they don’t like.
Likewise, every institution has a right to choose the kind of image it wishes to project to the public. Every company that is worth its salt has its own ethos-factors that characterize its operations. It is one of the reasons why companies have visions and missions. The essence of corporate governance is to ensure that organizations reflect their main objectives in their day-to-day operations. Interestingly, people don’t appear to have a problem understanding this, provided the organization involved is secular. How many indigenous companies in Nigeria will retain a member of staff caught on tape having sex, especially when the tape is well circulated on the social media? They are very few if they exist at all.
In 2015, Shell fired some workers after their filmed sex tape went viral. Punishing workers for such is not even a Nigerian thing. Last year, a TESCO manager according to thesun.co.uk, was marched out of a superstore in front of colleagues after he was filmed romping with a blonde teenage member of staff in a back office. I recall a case of some ladies fighting over one of their bosses in a media house many years back. The editor-in-chief of the media house, despite also being a pro at dating his junior female staff, took a decisive action against the women. He went as far as inviting the husband of one of the ladies involved in the brawl, showed him the love letters purportedly written by his wife, sealed with a kiss and addressed to her boss. The lady was still relieved of her job in spite of that high level of humiliation, disgrace and embarrassment. The worst part of the story is that nothing was done to the so-called boss. The matter was treated as if it was a case of a woman harassing a man. Unfortunately, while there was a clear evidence to nail the woman in question, there was none to punish the man.
The point being made in a nutshell is that there are established ways of behaviour in every human setting, including universities. Agreed, universities don’t have the right to stop their students from engaging in sexual acts off-campus, however, students should also know that their sexual acts off-campus should be done with utmost sense of responsibility and decency. It is difficult to make a case for any student whose sexual exploits or any other infractions, damage their institutions’ image and reputation. If it is right for a company to take appropriate steps against reckless sexual exploits of their staff members, it shouldn’t be out of place for higher institutions to take a similar step against their students.
Olabisi Deji-Folutile is a member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors. Email: email@example.com