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20.05.2019 Feature Article

Reflections on the aborted UEW alumni elections

Reflections on the aborted UEW alumni elections

All over the world, the crucial role of alumni to their alma mater is patent to their growth and development. Indeed many universities view their alumni associations as valuable assets to achieving their mission and vision. All well-meaning alumni provide various levels of support beneficial to the students, graduates, alumni, universities and society. The alumni’s opinion in developing the university and proposing solutions to the challenges faced by the University is highly valued by universities in achieving their vision and mission.

The contributions and involvement of the alumni of a university can significantly increase the reputation of the university locally and internationally. The vehicle of the alumni association can, therefore, be a pivotal framework and a social model for strengthening the unity of society and a factor for national economic growth and development.

This is evidenced in the involvement of alumni in supporting and providing contributions voluntarily to their universities towards maintaining and expanding infrastructure as well as their contributions to endowment funds to sponsor significant programmes, scientific research discoveries and supporting various fields of academic endeavour.

Furthermore, the potential for all alumni to contribute to the university is real since every alum in very different ways has the experience of being a student and becoming a unique graduate. By establishing and maintaining viable channels that facilitate closer ties between the students, the University and the alumni itself, alumni associations provide crucial benefits in enriching students’ experiences while being at the university.

The return of the alumni to support their universities can be a veritable platform to spark and inspire confidence in students encountering similar challenges once faced by alumni as students. The experiences shared by the alumni with students on the outlook of real life and career can easily boost students confidence and help engineer the desired culture the university intends to convey to students.

Besides, the alumni can contribute by providing their expertise in their occupation as in developing new study programmes in the University as well as hold the keys for opening doors for the University to enter into industry networks for collaborative works and to support the students by mentoring them on their career opportunities in industry and opening channels for their acceptance, either in undergoing practical learning or work experience in the institutions where the alumni are present in.

Potentially, senior alumni can assist younger ones from the university to access opportunities in improving their careers and professionalism not just to grow a successful alumni community with a stronger and influential network but obtain recognition from industry and the wider community which in turns impact positively on their universities.

The above are but some of the key roles expected of any alumni association universally for the development and promotion of their alma maters and adding value to the alumni. In Ghana, alumni associations are rather very vibrant at the Senior High Schools (SHSs) but there is evidence from the University of Ghana and University of Cape among others of alumni associations at universities stepping up their game to meet universal expectations. There are tangible things one can easily point to in respect of the alumni to their various universities. Even though UEW alumni have the numbers and the mojo to be counted among vibrant alumni associations at least in Ghana, the fact on the ground is profoundly sad with absolutely nothing to show except to be associated with illegal protests and demonstrations in recent times against the very University we are expected to promote and develop.

Of course, the prognoses to the problem are not far-fetched. The alumni association is mainly saddled with weak organizational structures to mobilise for action, inability to educate and inculcate into prospective alumni the spirit of belongingness largely due to the inactivity of the alumni to its responsibilities, divided and self-seeking executives expected to prosecute the agenda of the alumni, a capture of the association by a small group within the alumni aa well as a clear lack of appreciation of what an alumni association ought to be.

With the interest and buzz generated in the run-up to the aborted alumni elections, many a well-meaning alum saw a renewed interest in the activities of the alumni and a real opportunity to start the reorganization of its structures with the election of new executives who were expected to lead the charge in charting this new course for the alumni. Unfortunately, this was not to be, with certain individuals rather than the rules standing in the way of the elections on the excuse that the register had issues. Interestingly, the very people who raised issues with the register were part of the privileged few who drew up the guidelines for generating the register.

It must be on record that no candidate or voter raised any issue with the register or any aspect of the electioneering process till the Election Day when electorates had travelled from across the country to converge at the Jophus Anamuah-Mensah Conference Centre at the North Campus in Winneba for the elections. Even so, there was no official complaint, petition or query to the organisers of the elections for redress. I agree that the issues raised unofficially were germane but were not issues that could not be resolved for the elections to proceed as planned. The issues with names such as Kofi, Ernest, Kwame, Bounty mobile money among others in the register could have easily been dealt with. It did not in any way suggest a blotted register as was being mooted. It should have been possible to verify everybody who was there to vote.

The manner in which voting was disrupted culminating in the organisers calling off the entire process was so wrong. Of course, those who prosecuted that agenda jubilated upon the announcement that voting had been called off. Jubilation over what? That might has prevailed over reason, dialogue and democratic culture? What is the guarantee that tomorrow if some other person is not happy with something; a similar thing will not happen? The precedent set on the day was wrong and not tenable in any civilised engagement. That you suspect your rights are going to be trampled upon is not and cannot be grounds for anyone to deny other people from exercising their own legitimate rights.

Those who used this crude method of disrupting the voting processes by evading the voting arena and physically restraining voters from exercising their democratic rights failed to see the bigger picture. Did they think about the cost of time and the risk taken by the voters to avail themselves for election? Did they think of the damage it could cause the alumni association in terms of growing indifference to its activities? Did they think of the possible reaction that could have come from opponents and the implications for lives, property and the image of the University? It should never be lost on us that our certificates are as good as the institution that issued them to us. As we sullen the image of the University, so do we do to our valued certificates. What may not be known to many who were active in executing the heinous agenda is that those fueling the said agenda have certificates from other institutions they could hung onto. I wish at this juncture to commend the civil reaction of those who were affected in one way or the other by the manner in which voting was disrupted and eventually cancelled.

Clearly, the emotions poured out by some sections of the alumni indicated that the contest into alumni executive positions was not about promoting the growth of the alumni association but for power play and egoistic aggrandisement. There were many events I can cite in support of this assertion for which those present would attest to. There were many aberrant behaviours not befitting of an intellectual community such as ours yet there were people who were totally blind to these shocking acts. The actions of our colleagues to unwarrantedly disrupt the voting process has plunged our cherished alumni association into a conundrum of uncertainty.

We cannot simply meet the global expectations of our alumni association with this attitude albeit that we are endowed with the potentials to meet same. Until we wake up from our comatose sleep we will never grasp the reality that our alumni association is non-existent, betrays the efforts of the many people who have laid down their lives to get our University to where it is today and the good people of Ghana whose taxes have financed the activities of the University. We owe it a duty to ourselves and posterity to get it right and I feel we just lost a fine opportunity to kick start the revolution of our alumni association.

The association is for all members and so let every member have his/her say on issues they feel so strongly on. But crucially, let us remember that there are guidelines to regular conduct and each of us is duty-bound to play within the confines of the regulations. It is not in our individual and collective interest to find solutions outside the confines of the regulations. When it so happens, all of us are not safe and we all descend into the tragedy of the state of nature where might is right, we throw away civil life and embrace savage, poor, nasty and brutish life. That is certainly not the way we want to grow our alumni association.

I was hoping that with all the challenges that came up, the elections should have gone on so that we could have our leadership in place to leverage on the renewed interest that had been generated by the elections knowing very well that no election in any part of our world is sacrosanct. Issues always crop up and same are resolved through the rules guiding the elections. I believe with the support of everybody involved we would have started building our alumni association from this point. For me, the open defiance of the electoral rules by a presidential candidate and the subsequent order of his thugs to disrupt the voting process in the name of defending the association is the biggest betrayal of the alumni. What would be the cost of that candidate losing the elections compared to all the possibilities that could have occurred as a result of his insensitive action or inaction? Is it about the alumni association or personalities? It was a clear manifestation of people pushing their self-seeking interest in the name of doing so for all.

The alumni’s role is integral to the development of the university, promoting the image of the University and to help earn recognition from industry and the wider world. Making a formidable alumni association is both beneficial to the alumni and the parent institution. It begins with interest and the responsibility to give the alumni brand equity that makes the University proud. This will nurture and grow relationships that are worthwhile over the years and hopefully end in something that is beneficial to all. It is our collective responsibility to make this happen however, it should start with allowing the views of every single alum on board within the framework of a regulated environment where decisions can be reached through democratic principles. Let all well-meaning alums shed off all perceptions they have of the University administration and be focused on re-organising and building the structures of the alumni association to it formidable, and enable it to contribute sincerely to the growth and development of our alma mater, UEW.

Kweku Takyi
Kweku Takyi, © 2019

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