Could the Two â??Elephantsâ?? Find another Venue

Thu, 13 May 2010 Source: Berko, George

Could the Two “Elephants” Find another Venue to Flex Their Muscles at Each Other?—We need to focus on the essence of the issue.

Amidst the emotional outburst of the VANDALS in support of Dr. Arthur Kobina Kennedy on his Article on the Commonwealth Hall issue, appearing on the Ghanaweb.com on May 5th, 2010, the blistering criticism by Dr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr. of Dr. Kennedy on that Article, and the vociferous repudiation of Dr. Okoampa-Ahoofe’s criticism by many and various individuals, we seem to have lost focus on the real issues central to the uproar.

The Legon Authorities have made a decision that is intended to stop the attitude of heckling of dignitaries by the VANDALS, the students of the Commonwealth Hall. On the heels of such an Administrative move has been the vigorous resistant reaction of the VANDALS and their sympathizers. Unfortunately, the issue is now gathering distractive foibles around it that are veiling the essence we all need to speak of.

If we really want to find our way through to a reasonable and wise end on this issue, I would suggest we consider the following questions and points alongside those of others. These questions and points are not strung in any particularly logical order. But they are meant to invoke our deepest thoughts to help us find more extensive and holistic resolution to the VANDALS issue, or, at least, help us better appreciate the decision of the Authorities and the points of view of the VANDALS.

Many have the reasons to believe the Legon Authorities assume that the mild and usually non-belligerent attitude of our women might mitigate the tendency to behave as boisterous as the VANDALS have been, in various instances of heckling, if the Commonwealth Hall is transformed into a Co-ed Dormitory.

Secondly, the University also seems to believe that Graduate students tend to be more circumspect and appreciative of decorum. So, if the Hall were populated with lots of Graduate Students the chances that heckling might be an option to treat certain personalities invited by the Administration to the Campus would be significantly reduced, if not entirely eradicated.

Given this scenario of seeking solution to curb the behavior of the VANDALS, could the Public help contribute ideas for or against the effectiveness of the measures proposed? Surely, the suggested solution by the Authorities has been seen, in some circles, also, as a punitive action on the Students for their unruly behavior. But to those that protest the idea of punishing the Students in this way, may I humbly ask whether they think the punishment is too harsh or that the Students didn't deserve to be punished at all, possibly because they were exercising their democratic rights? Does turning the Hall into a Co-ed residence necessarily uproot the peculiar behaviors that are associated with the Hall? Isn’t tradition, a tradition and always tradition until a specific purpose is succinctly pronounced by appropriate stakeholders to kill it? And what really constitutes the tradition alluded to, here, regarding the VANDALS? Should we concede Heckling of dignitaries as the embodiment of the VANDALS’ tradition?

Well, what I wish both the supporters of the VANDALS and their counterparts should consider definitively is whether or not the heckling of dignitaries is a kind of tradition the Hall keeps to distinctly identify itself. Now, assuming the behavior had to be accepted as an exclusive tradition at the Commonwealth Hall, answering the following questions might help us make our minds: That, if the tradition were to be kept, wouldn't the VANDALS have some criteria for deciding why and who to heckle? And if they have, what are those criteria? Next, shouldn't the University Authorities have a say as to whether or not the heckling itself as a Tradition is appropriate or not, morally, legally and socially for the entire School?

And if the Authorities approve of heckling by the VANDALS for that purpose, (whatever that might be asserted as such) would it have any exceptions and who would have the final say as to as to who becomes a victim of such Student activity? Or, generally, would there not be the need for stipulating the bounds of such heckling?

If the activity were to be allowed to continue as a tradition, how often should it be allowed to happen? Or, would it all depend on the perceived eminence of the visitor to the Campus, or how relevant the issue might be, in the interest of the VANDALS (and the general student Population) that still remains unresolved and qualifies for a cause to heckle? Would the perceived intransigence of the University Authorities to address the concerns of the VANDALS always leave the eligibility to heckle anyone of their choice in the legal domain of the VANDALS?

Maybe it would help for both the VANDALS and the Legon Authorities to settle the very basic question of accepting heckling for a permissible Commonwealth Hall tradition or not, first. And if the behavior were to be retained and allowed by the University to continue as a tradition, then visitors to the Campus would have to be forewarned of the likelihood to suffer such a treatment during their visit to the Campus. In that case, if the visitors still decided to come to the School, then the Students would not be blamed for being rude—unless they exceed a stipulated threshold.

To the VANDALS, however, I would like to suggest that they try to understand the need to uphold the Laws of the Land and the School, and recognize that any activity they engage in to disrupt the normal running of the School might be in conflict of the ultimate interests of the Students and the Institution. If there are genuine issues that have grown cold from the negligence of the School Authorities, the various avenues to break the Authorities frigidity must be first exhausted before using heckling (in its approved form) to bolster their demands. Going to Court, for example, to sue for the necessary attention could be part of that final recourse to seek redress. But haven’t we always had that option? One may ask. The difference is that the Judicial Authorities must be legally compelled to also live by their side of the bargain to fairly take up complaints from Students.

We need to remember that heckling by its very nature, even under very strict guidelines, could still be taken too far and result in serious infringement on some visitor's Constitutional rights as well. And could the VANDALS boldly own full legal responsibility for any such excesses in their heckling "Tradition"? That last question underscores the notion that tradition does not necessarily excuse illegalities, and culprits might have to be dragged to the Courts to answer for their actions, collectively or individually. Would the VANDALS assemble all their resources behind an individual VANDAL for his defense on any alleged excesses?

I hope we all help in resolving this issue in peace and not find it as yet another opportunity to flex our Political and Tribal muscles in furtherance of our parochial personal interests. If the two Doctors have a bone to pick and crush, they should not do so on the back of the VANDALS and Legon.

Long Live Ghana!!!

Columnist: Berko, George