The BBC Africa Eye team has answered some questions posed by GhanaWeb on the recently released “Sex for Grades” investigative documentary which implicated two lecturers of the University of Ghana
Professor Ransford Gyampo and Dr Paul Kwame Butakor were filmed allegedly engaging in several forms of sexual harassment and misconduct which go against the university’s Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Policy.
The two have been indicted and are under investigation by the university’s Anti-Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Committee.
Below is the Q&A conducted on Wednesday:
GhanaWeb: Why the focus on just these two universities despite claims that Sex-for-Grades is prevalent in several institutions?
Africa Eye: We began this investigation because Africa Eye received numerous requests to do so from members of the public in Ghana and Nigeria. Our investigation began very broad, focusing on numerous institutions. Ultimately, we settled on the University of Lagos and the University of Ghana because our evidence suggests there is a serious sexual harassment problem at these two institutions - though this problem is not unique to them.
GhanaWeb: How does Prof. Ransford Gyampo's case constitute Sex-for-Grades when he decided to "abort" the "marriage" mission following the lady's seeming rejection?
Africa Eye: See below answer to 3.
GhanaWeb: Some have argued that the footage, for instance, in Prof. Gyampo's case, is not incriminating and in fact, he has threatened to sue for defamation. How ready are you for a potential legal battle?
Africa Eye: It makes sense to answer both these questions in one.
Our documentary “Sex for Grades, encompasses sexual harassment in many forms – covering everything from incessant and inappropriate sexualised remarks, to groping and unwanted touching, to accounts of serious sexual abuse and blackmail. The film includes multiple references to, but is by no means exclusively about student grades being doctored by lecturers in exchange for sex.
At the heart of the issue is abuse of power by those entrusted to teach and their disregard for university policies intended to prevent sexual harassment.
The extent of our evidence in our documentary shows that Professor Ransford Gyampo broke the University of Ghana’s rules on sexual misconduct when he engaged in inappropriate amorous behaviour with our undercover reporter, Abigail, who he knew as a student at the university seeking mentorship from him, and that he attempted to exploit an academic relationship with her.
The evidence in the film is as follows:
a. One Sunday afternoon, following their academic meetings, Professor Gyampo, called Abigail and teased and accused her of always being formal around him saying “formal formal, formal formal. You want to talk about work work, nothing else.” During the call he asked her if she had a boyfriend and repeatedly requested to visit her in her rented accommodation off campus. She reminded him she was a student and said she was not really interested in a relationship. Professor Gyampo told her she should prepare her mind because he would be coming very soon. Eventually he was persuaded by Abigail to meet in a safer public place, a mall instead of her home, later that evening.
b. While at the shopping mall, Prof Gyampo made numerous lewd and sexually inappropriate comments towards Abigail, despite his interactions with her as a University of Ghana student.
These include, but are not limited to:
o Repeatedly asking her whether she had “ever been kissed violently before.”
o Repeatedly telling her to stop pushing herself away from him and insinuating she would become his “wedded wife.”
o Telling her she should grow a bit fat for him so that if he were to hold her it wouldn’t appear as if he had hurt her.
o Telling her he would “grab” her and kiss her to remove all her “shyness.”
o Making remarks about female students liking “penis” at the secondary school she attended.
o Repeatedly leering at her in an intimidating fashion.
o Telling her not to follow young men as they will be “fidgeting with” her breasts and be “pressing, pressing, and squeezing, squeezing” her breasts.
o He repeatedly asked Abigail to be his girlfriend until marriage, despite her telling him she was not interested in a relationship.
o Professor Gyampo repeatedly asked she hug him at the end of the meeting. She did not. Later, on the phone, he said it was ok if she didn’t want to be his girlfriend but that she should continue to be mentored by him.
The university considers “amorous” or flirtatious behaviour towards students by lecturers as sexual misconduct. The policy prohibits sexual relationships between individuals where there is an imbalance of power – such as when one individual is in a position to make decisions that affect the educational opportunities or career of another. Prof Gyampo met Abigail in the context of providing her with academic support at the University of Ghana and advice on pursuing a career in research post-graduation.
In an interview with the BBC after the documentary was published, the chairperson of the Anti-Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Committee at the University of Ghana condemned the conduct of both lecturers seen in the footage and described it as “unacceptable, inappropriate behaviour that is really an affront to their positions as lecturers at the University of Ghana."
We acknowledge in our programmes that Prof Gyampo vehemently denies sexually harassing our reporter or any student. He told us he treats all students with respect, care and genuine affection. He claims he was entrapped – which the BBC strongly refutes.
GhanaWeb: Should Dr Paul Kwame Butakor and/or Prof. Ransford Gyampo be found innocent by the University of Ghana's Anti-Harassment Committee, how disappointed will you be?
Africa Eye: What happens next is for the University of Ghana’s anti-harassment committee to determine. We stand by our journalism which complies with BBC’s strict Editorial Guidelines.
GhanaWeb: Would you appear before the university’s committee on the matter if invited and would you encourage the victims who have spoken to you to do so?
Africa Eye: The BBC has already supplied the committee as much evidentiary material in the documentary as possible. The University of Ghana has created "additional communication channels" for members of the university community to report harassment, including a dedicated email address. We reported on this development and our reporter Kiki Mordi has tweeted the details – including the new email address firstname.lastname@example.org
GhanaWeb: Can you, if there are any, name the other lecturers in Ghana who you investigated undercover but have passed the test or have been proven innocent?
Africa Eye: Our teams will only engage in undercover filming when there is significant and compelling prima facie evidence to justify this approach – such as first-hand testimonies of harassment, text message screen shots, or recordings by students.. We did not film any individuals in Ghana on whom we did not have substantive prima facie evidence prior to engagement. The two lectures who appear in the film in Ghana were the only subjects for which secret filming was deemed appropriate. Secret filming in journalism is a last resort and the BBC has very strict Editorial Guidelines around this issue.
GhanaWeb: What forms of protection have you offered the undercover journalists you worked with especially when some pictures of ladies are going around claiming they’ve been unearthed?
Africa Eye: Africa Eye is not prepared to discuss any security arrangements in place for any undercover journalist involved in this investigation or any investigation. Doing so would undermine the mitigations we have put in place.
GhanaWeb: What’s the reason for not going further with the undercover investigation to establish a criminal intent than just exposing a moral decadence?
Africa Eye: Undercover filming requires striking a balance between evidence gathering and the safety of your operatives. We believe we captured ample evidence to show that both Dr Butakor and Prof Gyampo have engaged in behaviour in breach of the University of Ghana’s Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Policy. Continuing to film our interactions with the lecturers further could have risked putting our undercover operatives in harm’s way.
GhanaWeb: What are the next steps to be taken by the Africa Eye team in relation to this case?
Africa Eye: We have published all the material on individual lecturers that we intend to in Ghana. We will leave the university’s internal investigation to the university itself and will report on any significant new developments. We are aware of many students and former students who have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment against academic staff on social media and would encourage them to engage with the committee.