27.08.2016 Opinion

Dr. Esi Bani, the Issue of FERPA, and the Accreditation Debate in Ghana

By Prosper Yao Tsikata
Dr. Esi Bani, the Issue of FERPA, and the Accreditation Debate in Ghana
27.08.2016 LISTEN

We are not oblivious to what afflict us as Ghanaians. We are aware of the dangers of viewing anything Ghanaian, first, from a political lens, especially for those of us who are positioned within the political structures to derive benefits from the status quo. But what we, the authors of the report Dr. Esi Bani set out to respond to, failed to appreciate is how deep political coloration has infiltrated even the academy, whereby even issues bothering on matters of intellectual dishonesty must be first viewed from a political angle. The danger is that once political colors are injected into what should be a policy debate, the desire to respond is not driven by the logic of the common good; the desire is purely political. This desire manifests itself in the following behavior: how do I shoot the concerns being raised by colleagues down because I know individuals who have been identified as culprits?

First, it is important to educate Dr. Esi Bani on what exactly FERPA is and what it is intended to achieve. FERPA is a federal law that protects the privacy of students' educational records; meaning that, upon the attainment of 18, students have direct control over their educational record. Instructors CANNOT release such records to even parents without the consent of a student in question upon that student attaining the age of 18. What has FERPA got to do with the private educational records of individuals we have identified in our report? For other wider methodological issues that other contenders in this debate tried to raised, so they could deceitfully evade the issues in contention, please following the link to our rejoinder

The position Dr. Esi Bani took on the issue of FERPA suggests two things. The learned professor's position suggests that either she is completely ill-informed about what FERPA actually is and what it is meant to achieve or by her association with individuals (perhaps our NDC chairman and the IGP, since her husband is the current Minister for the Interior in Ghana), she has to sacrifice her hard-earned intellectual reputation to defend the indefensible. If the first suggestion holds true, then the University of Louisville has a problem on its hands, as the professor lacks understanding of what FERPA is. The implications of this position are numerous but not the task of this rejoinder. On the other, if by the fact of Dr. Esi Bani's association with those who wield power in Ghana, she must simply fish out for some confusing acronyms to baffle readers, then Ghana has a huge problem, as intellectuals of her stature are expected to promote and defend the common good, the reason why academic tenure is a necessary safeguard for academic freedom or liberty. Again, readers should be able to identify the implications of this position, as that is not the task of this rejoinder.

Let's learn to be on the good side of history by evaluating issues critically before taking position on them. As intellectuals, we should not be in a haste to take position or be driven by other extraneous political considerations to position ourselves in ways that expose us to public ridicule. Readers can follow Dr. Esi Bani's position on the matter of contention below.

Prosper Yao Tsikata, PhD
Assistant Professor of Communication
Valdosta State University

A. Kobla Dotsey, PhD
Director, Chemical Research and Development

Dr. Esi Bani's response:
I just finished reading the Tsikata report on the problem of Diploma Mills, and I must say I hope he and partner got Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) clearance for his study before proceeding with the public naming and shaming of individuals without their consent.

As an academic I dare not do that nor would I countenance such unethical conduct from my students. Period.

YES there is a serious problem with unaccredited diploma mills defrauding people who may or may not know the accreditation status of the institutions they enroll in for EARNED degrees. They could have highlighted the institutions WITHOUT listing individuals names. I hope they hire good lawyers to defend them against at least libel lawsuits.

The matter of the validity of people's qualifications is a confidential matter between them and their employees."

I rest my case.

Dr. Esi Dogbey-Bani (in case you do not know her, she is the wife of the Minister of the Interior in Ghana and an Associate Professor, University of Louisville, Kentucky).