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Opinions of Wednesday, 11 January 2006

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

Professor Andam Is Off His Rocker


Case 1

Asked why the University was not concentrating on the physical science but was also running social sciences, Prof Andam said the reason was to found the study of the physical sciences on the Liberal Arts to avoid producing straightjacket scientists and engineers.

"We don't want to produce an engineer, who is a homosexual or cannot express himself with the Government or Development Partners.? (GNA)

Case 2

"Developing the Human Resource for Accelerated National Development."

Prof Andam said there was no need to engage in a debate over the inventions of Apostle Dr Safo and the capabilities of graduates from the university, adding that the priority of the university was not re-engineering but engineering. (GRAPHIC)

The above quotes are from two news items that were posted at Okyeame on the 5th and 6th of January respectively. One was titled ?KNUST begins Distance Learning Programme this year (01/6/2006)? and the other ?Prof Andam Takes Swipe At Apostle Sarfo (1/6/2006)?

Ghana is a developing country and as we move ahead, we are going to need all of Ghana?s children to make it work. Also, a lot of what is going on now will serve as the foundation for which our envisioned Ghana will be built on. It is for this reason that we must be very vigilant and definitely work assiduously to make sure that we don?t legitimize hate and intolerance as part of our fledging democracy. Hate and intolerance can only lead to violence now or eventually. Hate and intolerance should not be a fixture at our universities. I am told that homosexuality is a crime in Ghana and does attract a 7-year sentence therefore Andam is free to poke fun at illegality if he so chooses. Trust me, this case is not about the legality or lack thereof of homosexuality. Let us not cloud the issues. This is about a professor who is making reckless statements and must be told so.

Universities are places of learning and sharing ideas. A lot of these ideas are pervasively disseminated throughout the land and end up influencing and molding behavior. If and when our universities become the harbors or hate and intolerance, we risk nursing a divided society too irascible to ensure our own safety. Majority of our people look up to our learned professors and therefore, treat what they hear from them as gospel. It is for this reason that Professor Andam?s effusions for the past two days pose a serious concern for some of us. First, the professor took a swipe at so called ?homosexual engineers? and then, as if that gaffe was not enough, dismissed insultingly, Apostle Safo as a flaky inventionist. What does the professor mean by a ?homosexual engineer? and why this caustic attitude toward Apostle Safo? The professor seems to be on a tear that must be halted immediately. He is disgracing the university that feeds him and the country as a whole. How many conscientious folks will enroll their kids at a university where hate is tolerated? Note that it is this same KNUST that witnessed a reckless assault on the bawdy female performer who gyrates under the moniker, Mzbel. There must be something in the water at KNUST huh? First it was the students, now the professor?s turn has come.

I am frankly disturbed by the absence of indignation towards both utterances of the professor. KNUST should be at the forefront, condemning these irresponsible statements by the professor. First, there must some standards at the university that forbids professors from making such nonsensical statements. I understand academic freedom and all that chaff, but is that a license to bad mouth and insult others mindlessly? Within the ambit of academic freedom, the university must immediately enact guidelines that forbid professors from making such stereotypical and hate inspired drivel. Our universities should not be turned into citadels of hate and ego driven macho men. Instead, they should be crown jewels of hope, curiosity, tolerance, creativity and above all, elite humility. It is obvious that the professor did not exhibit any of the latter behaviors when he waxed at both venues.

There is no study or any empirical evidence that I am aware of which links homosexuality to performance as far as engineering or any other profession is concerned. Besides, sexual preferences are personal predispositions or choices that people make. It makes no sense whatsoever to assert that low performance is limited to homosexuals and assume that the opposite is true for straight or so called heterosexual folks. If that were the case, Ghana would have made serious advances, huh? Of course the assumption here is that most people in Ghana are not gay. Whatever your take is, we must not tolerate irresponsible tirades from people in key and leadership positions. Andam traduces his own thinking ability to that of a child by making such gawd awful statements. If he epitomizes KNUST engineers, then Apostle Safo may not be quite off the mark, after all. His rant serves no purpose, besides portraying, if not galvanizing us as a bunch of intolerant loose cannons and cognitive misers. It puts a patina on our blatant hatred for minorities in our own communities. I am not here to defend gay people or the practice per se, but I will be dodging my responsibility if I don?t speak up for my fellow man, regardless of what sexual orientation they subscribe to. What group will be next if we don?t stop this madness?

Just look at what this same professor says about Apostle Safo. I don?t know apostle Safo and I am not aware of what bevy of inventions he has. So, I am not able to speak to the lunacy or cerebral nature of his alleged inventions. However, given the fact that we are searching for answers as we develop, would it not make sense to assay his inventions and then make some determinations as to viability or enhancement, instead of dismissing his work as nonsensical? If re-engineering is what takes us to the promise land, why not? How much seminal engineering have they produced at KNUST and how is it benefiting us as a country to start with? Is curiosity not a virtue at any university? God knows the number of inventions that curiosity has led us to. Why is this professor so close-minded? Is this not the very condescending attitude of our elite that keeps cudgeling our development efforts? So an engineer is out of place if he or she reengineers anything that has already been done? I guess the professor has not been listening to the BASF commercial lately. Here is how it goes, at BASF we don?t make a, b, or c, we make it better.? What is wrong with that prof? Why reinvent the wheel in the midst of scarcity?

The professor goes on to say that even first year students can invent helicopters. Well, so why are we not building helicopters and selling them then? How are we using such inventiveness of first year students to benefit Ghana? You see, people like this professor Andam give elitism a bad name. This also goes to augment, if not buttress, the notion that a sizeable majority of Ghanaian elite just does not get it. They are dysfunctional and indeed play the role of spoilers as we march toward development. Instead of praising and embracing what Apostle Safo has done, even if ever so insignificant for a man his learning, we witness instead, gold plate condescension and gross disrespect. Adam may have temper problems just like some of us but he must realize that a professorship is an honorable position and therefore, he has the responsibilty to behave above reproach.

Even though Andam uses the mission of his unit to disguise his disdain, the underlying, and maybe unintended but subtle message in Andam?s attitude is that non-university Ghanaians are not capable of inventing anything worthwhile. For time immemorial, Ghanaian elite tends to look down upon those who did not make it to the university. This has created a decadent situation where we either ignore or dismiss our middle level technocrats in solving our varying needs. This attitude ought to seize now. It will do us good if we take a 360-degree approach in solving our challenging technical needs. Everyone has a role to play and non-university folks have as much to offer as university folks. Indeed and in fact, if we are to go by what is going on now, I will put my bet on middle level technocrats. They are much more humble and very much to the point. There is nothing earth shattering coming out of KNUST and the earlier we say it the better off we are. Of course, this is not to insult KNUST graduates at all. This is just to raise awareness that that KNUST can do better and we have to revisit the curriculum and make sure that we are producing capable and development relevant graduates. BTW, this observation holds true for all areas in Ghanaian university education.

Professor Andam seems to have been at his vindictive best in dealing with the Apostle Safo?s issue. Is this not the same Apostle Safo whose work has been embraced by a university in Ghana? Previously, the Apostle criticized KNUST for producing half-baked graduates who could not get the job done. Obviously he has some KNUST graduates in his employ, who were not measuring up to his expectations. Whether that criticism from Safo was fair or not is open to debate. However, the professor should learn to stay above the fray. This is not a shouting match about how many quality graduates KNUST has produced. I am sure there are some KNUST graduates who are ready for prime time and others who are not. Instead of trying to vent his spleen on the Apostle, he should learn to take such criticism well and use such as inspiration to do better. Making batty statements in Safo?s direction goes to highlight the pigheadedness that seems to have enveloped Professor Andam.

Given the deplorable situation of our universities and the lack of professors, it is rather difficult to call for the dismissal of Andam. In the west, he may not be at post as we speak. Yes, the president of Harvard got away with his gaffes but most don?t. Of course it might seem harsh to kick him out in a country where his effusions are tolerated. The least that can and ought to be done is to reprimand him. He should be censured and made to give a lecture(s) on why hate is not a good thing. Also, this chauvinist must be made to withdraw his statements about Apostle Safo and render unqualified apology for dismissing him as nonsensical. Of course, KNUST and other universities ought to put in place guidelines and standards for professors and other leaders within the university when making public utterances.

It would have been nice to hear our invisible president condemn Andam. Knowing how the president operates, I am not betting on it. I won?t get my hopes so high only to be dropped like a hot potato. Whatever happens, Ghana must not be seen as an insensitive bastion for minorities and creativity. The bottom line is this, we must all learn to tolerate others who behave differently than we do. At least, seek to understand others instead of condemning and making them laughing stocks. We need and can make each other better. We must come together to build Ghana. Andam, please muse before you spout.

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