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Opinions of Friday, 21 January 2022

Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah

My terrible experience at the Ashesi University security gate

Does Ashesi University have a writing centre and a customer service protocol?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

I went to Ashesi University at Berekuso, on Monday 17 January, but was turned away by a hostile trio of security guards or gatemen.

Ashesi has branded itself as an atypical Ghanaian institution so I went there to seek a collaboration with their Writing Centre for my writing consultancy business.

On reaching the main entrance, to my shock and dismay, a security guard told me emphatically, “There is no writing centre here”.

I asked them whether it was their expectation that the taxi driver should park outside and I enter, but they declined.

They asked if I knew the director of the writing center personally. I said "No".

“Do you have an appointment?”

I said "No".

"Then you cannot enter," said the guard.

I told the taxi driver, "Let's leave, I'm not wasting my time here."

Then two students, a male and a female, arrived at the gate, coming from outside.

I asked them: "Is there a writing centre here?"

They said "Yes, the Writing Centre," in unison.

I told them: "Your security men say there's no writing center here, and I have no appointment, but a university is a public place, isn't it?"

They both said "Yes", appearing shocked by the attitude of the security guards.

I said, "I'm leaving" and told the students my name.

Later I got down, put on my jacket and went back to the gate to ask the name of the security guard who had approached my taxi.

All three on duty asked why I wanted his name?

I saw the name of their security company printed on the badges on their uniforms, and I left them alone.

Imagine someone coming into a university - public or private - and the gateman says if you don't know anyone there, you cannot even enter the reception/administration to make any enquiries!!!

Universities have significant relevance for their localities/communities as places of learning, and are thus welcoming of any law abiding person who seeks to share knowledge.

In December 2019, I had made a presentation to the Writing Across the Curriculum hiring team of Ashesi University at Brekuso including a prominent lady scholar and university administrator of at least 30 years standing.

"I'm completely satisfied with his delivery and answers," the lady professor said on the call from South Africa as she listened in to my presentation and asked questions.

Everyone was "satisfied", were their comments.

The Director of the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC)/Writing Centre role was a position for a PhD holder, and there was no vacancy yet for any adjunct lecturers for which I could otherwise be considered.

But I was quietly informed by the hiring staff that the search team was curious about my body of work hence my being shortlisted and invited.

Having seen an advertisement for a similar role - Co-Director of the Writing Centre including adjunct lecturer/Reader roles this week, therefore, I wanted first to talk to someone, anyone who would listen about what exactly they needed at the Writing Center.

This line in the advertisement for co-director of the Writing Centre arrested my attention:

"The search committee is especially interested to hear from candidates who will bring diverse perspectives to their administrative work and teaching, from non-traditional educational backgrounds or an understanding of the experience of those under-represented in higher education."

It is refreshing to see such enlightened perspective since it shows that the traditional academic is ready and willing to play ball with other scholars/public intellectuals.

My mentor has always insisted: "Based on biological models alone, inbreeding will lead to genetic anomalies".

But if the security guards say "there is no writing center," that implies a lot for my integrity - and the impact/presence of the Writing Centre within Ashesi.

My terrible experience is perhaps what a mystery client may experience on a random basis.

If the private security company staff do not know about the existence of the Ashesi Writing Centre, then that tells a lot about both Ashesi University and the security company, doesn’t it?

Did I hear anyone say I should have switched my mission to now say, for example, "I am a parent, I'm here to enquire about admissions?"

I expected that the gatemen/security guards would call someone at the administration and tell them there was a gentleman here without appointment.

Relying on mystery clients “can also be an illuminating data collection strategy in development research,” wrote David Evans on blogs.worldbank.org on 29 April 2015. “Twenty-five to thirty years ago, studies were using mystery clients to evaluate family planning programs in Ghana, Morocco, and Haiti.”

The taxi driver explained they drive into Ashesi all the time from Kwabenya Junction with passengers; they, the drivers are known to the security so parking the car outside was not the sticking point.

I asked the gateman to consider my long distance travel and let me enter to ask at the administration, but that too was declined.

Was I supposed to plead or pamper them or offer them tips to let me enter?

Imagine if I had the contacts, but no calling credit, or there was poor network connection, or someone who should answer my calls had gone for lunch or was not at their desk.

This horrible experience has serious implications for the business/management faculty at Ashesi, and more.

Embarking on the dusty laterite 12Km Kwabenya Junction to Ashesi road for 30 minutes either way, showed my respect and esteem for Ashesi and its pioneering role.

But this experience is for me yet another example, of the ghana with the small "g" that annoys us daily and which must improve forthwith.

Everywhere you turn…...

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