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Sex for grades: Clean varsities of harassment, seduction – Alabi writes

Sex for grades: Clean varsities of harassment, seduction – Alabi writes

I feel led to respond to the trending issue of “Sex for Grades”. As a young lecturer at the then Institute of Professional Studies (IPS), now the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA), an elderly lady who was a mature student once walked into my office to express serious concern about how some younger ladies dress to “kill” (Seduce) male lecturers in class. She explained that what worries her more, was how they laugh at those who fall for their tricks. I also heard from some students’ how they suspect that some lecturers’ gestures implied harassment and felt disadvantaged as a result but were often unwilling to report or to provide evidence to that effect no matter how you encourage them.  I started thinking about this seriously and that led me to draft and propose the dress code policy in the Institute at that time.

The proposal was accepted and implemented. The proposal was also documented in the students’ handbook and the Quality Manual for Senior Members. At that time, a summary of the dress was part of the admissions letter.  As a lecturer committed to the dress code, I made sure I implemented the code to the letter, instituted dressing and grooming seminars, introduced proper dressing into my presentations and assessments, and walked students who were not appropriately dressed out of my class. The very people I wanted to protect were the venerable female students, sometimes set out to seduce. I reckon that having a dress code is not exhaustive by itself, but forms part of the preventive mechanisms against sexual misconduct.  Some of the issues I heard about as a lecturer has informed the article below. 

The Case of Sexual Misconduct in Universities – A Global Phenomenon

Misconduct relating to harassment and seduction has become a common global phenomenon in academic institutions not limited to West Africa.

An article published by the UK Guardian News Online reported by David Batty on Tuesday 3rd April, 2018, stated “sexual misconduct by UK university staff is rife, as research finds forty-one percent (41%) of students reporting incidents ranging from sexualized comments to rape”.  According to the research, which surveyed 1,839 current and former students by the National Union of Students (NUS) more than four in 10 students reported that they have suffered unwelcome advances and assault, including sexualised comments, inappropriate touching and rape[1]”. (Read full report here)

“The report also noted that one in eight (12%) disclosed being touched by a member of staff in a way that made them uncomfortable, with women twice as likely as men to suffer this form of unwanted behaviour”.

In another report on Sunday 9th August 2019, the UK Guardian news online reported that a sexual misconduct investigation between a lecturer and a female student at the Cambridge University ended with a rule change that ‘re-victimises’ students[2]Read full report here

The UK Guardian news online has a catalogue of cases of Sexual Misconduct within the higher education environment. However many of the attempts to address sexual misconduct in the academic environment have not been as effective as expected because they have generally been one – sided, focusing on harassment.

On 7th October 2019, the Ghanaian higher education environment woke to the humbling news of a BBC report captioned Sex for Grades, which focused on selected universities in West Africa. Unfortunately these are not the only universities with cases of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment in universities is not an entirely new phenomenon.

The academic environment’s response to the menace has focused narrowly on reactive mechanisms related to Ethic and Sexual Harassment policies with little or no attention to seduction and other preventive mechanisms. Having Ethics and Sexual Harassment Policies is very good and may appear proactive but the policies are very reactive because they only prescribe what should be done when the wrong has already occurred. They seek to provide reporting and redress procedures. The degree to which sexual harassment policies are addressing the canker is in my opinion yet to be adequately established. However, a cursory review suggests that ethics and harassment policies have not been adequate enough because many students are often not confident to report sexual misconduct advances or sometimes are themselves enticed by what is in it for them.

Harassment Versus Seduction

Additionally, there is another side of the coin that is yet to be adequately interrogated, and that is “Seduction”. There seem to be a stereotype that female students are the victims and male superiors the violators. However, as an academic myself, I can say that many of the male superiors are under subtle and constant attack of seduction, while some also harass. So, whereas the male harass, the female seduce. Unfortunately, many of the sexual harassment policies do not address seduction and when they do, they are often not enforced because the academic environment has not adequately promoted the reporting of seduction. Academics are not encouraged to report cases of seduction.

On the other hand, some female students’ understanding the sexual physiology of male counterparts capitalize on what they consider “natural weakness of males” to seduce them to gain unfair advantage normally for better grades than they deserve. Many of the men who are able to withstand their skirmishes are often given names and labelled wicked.

In law, attempting to cause subversion is not acceptable in our society just as attempting to bribe is equally also not acceptable in our society.  Emphasis – Attempting. 

Attempting to entice the opposite sex with the view of getting him or her fall prey, which I call seduction must equally be condemned. When someone walks to you with the intention of inducing you to an act, without you knowing the intention you may be unfortunate to fall. This is different from someone who intentionally engages in harassment, which should be condemned in no uncertain terms.

Harassment has been generally defined as behaviour characterized by the making of unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances in a workplace or other professional or social situation[3].

Seduction on the other hand is the process of deliberately enticing a person, to engage in a relationship, to lead astray, as from duty, rectitude, or the like; to corrupt, to persuade or induce into engaging in sexual behaviour. … The word seduction stems from Latin and means literally “leading astray.”[4]

For example it is common place for some young ladies to use indecent dressing exposing their boobs garnished with oil and glitter to capture attention of unsuspecting male lecturers, or clothes that enhance and expose their natural endowments (Hips, Bum, thighs, stomach).

Some often sit in the front row and engage in acts that draw attention where they want the attention directed. Some also come in late to catch the attention of the would be victim. From very compromising positions, some students will do things that will get the attention of the target no matter what. Unfortunate, for those who are not guided by self-control, the seductive schemes wins them over to become victims. Finally, some use blackmail to get their victims hooked on for as long as they want.

How do we get redress for those who also fall victim to seduction? Often staff who harass students are expected to be punished and rightly so they ought to be dealt with as is deemed fit. The question is, what happens to those who consciously seduce others and make them prey?

Addressing the Canker of Academic Misconduct and Fraud – A Holistic Approach Required

It is very important that academia pays attention to this canker eating up academic integrity and destroying the very foundations that academia seek to build. Much of the misconduct in academia relates to grades or promotion. To address academic misconduct and fraud, we need a have more proactive and holistic approach than what currently exists. The following should be included in the holistic approach.

  • Staff induction that includes training on the ethical and professional aspects of teaching and learning with cases of harassments and seduction. Staff should be made to appreciate that the consequence of seduction and harassment could go beyond their career to affect other aspects of their lives, even before they start teaching.
  • Dress and Honour Codes should be introduced in universities and these should be strictly enforced. The freedom we espouse in academia when over-stretched becomes “free-doom”, so rather than freedom, academia is experiencing free-doom with respect to misconduct
  • Abolish the Examination System that forces people to cheat for grades and replace it with assessment systems that bring about learning and continual improvement in people. What gives anyone the permission to use certain designed mechanisms to label people FAILED or FAILURE, when the duty of teachers is to make students learn and know? When students fail, who failed, is it the student, teacher or the system that failed? If the system requires teachers to ensure that everybody passes and grading does not depend one teacher, will there be “Sex for Grades”?

People fight for grades because higher education is now about certification and not about learning, so people must get a certificate by all means. But certificates by themselves do not make people successful. If higher education institutions could move from “Grades = Certificates to “Learning = Success” Philosophy much of the sex for grades will not exist?

  • Strong advocacy to encourage students to report early advances with evidence and encourage staff also to report evidence of seduction
  • Panel or Conference marking should be introduced and enforced as the external assessment system only samples some scripts
  • Introduce Seduction Policy into the Ethics Standards and broaden the definition of misconduct to cover not only, plagiarism, fabrication of data, manipulation of research data, literal reproduction of other people’s works in the guise of original work, merchantization of research dissertation, paid and assisted paper development, assignment and essay factories, other forms of research and publication fraud, harassment as well as seduction.
  • Seduction should be as punishable as harassment.

I hope that academia will begin to think of sexual misconduct in a more holistic and proactive manner and work to clean our universities and other higher learning institutions of Harassment and Seduction. This is my opinion, which may generate the debate on harassment versus Seduction

Let’s face harassment and seduction out of our universities.




[1] The UK Guardian, David Batty ( 3rd April, 2019), Retrieved 09/10/2019.

[2] The UK Gaurdian, David Batty (11th August, 2019), Retrieved 09/10/2019

[3] Oxford Online Dictionary, (retrieved 9th October 2019)

[4]  Littleton, H. L., & Axsom, D. (2003). “Rape and seduction scripts of university students: Implications for rape attributions and unacknowledged rape”. Sex Roles. 49 (9–10): 465–475. doi:10.1023/A:1025824505185, as cited in Wiki.



Source: Prof. Goski Alabi | President – Laweh Open University College, Accra

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