Private University Suspends Student For Proposing In Public

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Al-Istiqama University, Sumaila, in Nigeria where a student was suspended for ‘improper behaviour’, Image: Facebook/Al-Istiqama UniversityThe management of Al-Istiqama University, Sumaila, a private faith-based university in Nigeria’s Kano State, has suspended a second-year computer science student after he publicly declared his affection for a female student on campus.

In an internal memo with Ref No AUS/REG/54, dated 14 May 2024, and obtained by University World News, Sani A Usman, the institution’s deputy registrar, announced the student’s suspension until further notice, citing this was due to “displaying improper behaviour on campus”. The student’s name is known to University World News.

Code of conduct

Local sources, who are aware of the development, told University World News that the student’s suspension was initiated when a video circulated online in which he showed his affection to a female schoolmate on campus. An open display of love is considered as an immoral act by the university management.

In a short video clip, the student was captured when he knelt down and extended a red bouquet to a female counterpart under a tree on Monday on the school premises.

However, the woman did not accept the offer in public, but the scene garnered the attention of other students who cheered and took pictures and recorded videos. Then the video circulated and got to the university authorities who suspended the male student until further notice.

Al-Istiqama University, being a private faith-based university, has a code of conduct for both students and lecturers, which are strictly based on Islamic teachings and principles.

In a 70-page student handbook obtained by University World News, the university law on page 54 says that “all students are expected to be of sound behaviour both within and outside the university”.

It further reads: “In a situation where a student commits an action that contravenes the university law, such is liable to punishment according to the provisions of the university guidelines governing student punishment.”

“Improper behaviour on campus”, according to the code of conduct, is punishable with “warning, suspension, rustication, withdrawal, or dismissal, depending on the decision of the university management, in accordance with the gravity of the offence”.

In his reactions to the development, Muhammad Lawal Rano, a final-year entrepreneurial studies student and the president of the student union of the university, said the school management is right in their action, noting that all students are aware of the rules and regulations governing the university.

“Our school is an Islamic university. And what he did is against the code of conduct of the university where it was provided that the management can suspend a student for any immoral act,” he told University World News in an interview.

Rano further stated that the university management has been warning students known to have displayed such behaviour prior to the incident, and the suspension was to set a precedent.

When asked about his effort to ensure the student’s pardon and quick reinstatement, Rano said: “God’s willing, on my own side as the Amir [president of the students’ union], we’re negotiating with the school management in order to see that they bring him back swiftly, and also my office will advise him in order to avoid a future occurrence.”

The university’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Dr Kabir Muhammad Kofar, told University World News that the suspension is in place for two weeks and the institution’s disciplinary committee was currently considering the matter.

Guided by law

Abubakar Aliagan, an Islamic expert and a professor of Islamic studies, said a university is governed by its policies and students are expected to abide by them.

“The university is a faith-based university and it is not the only one we have in Nigeria. So, students are expected to read the students’ handbook where the laws are written and sign some documents during their matriculation.

“By doing so, students have accepted to act and be judged by the rules and regulations of the university,” Aliagan told University World News in an interview, citing an instance of a faith-based university in Nigeria where students are not allowed to use mobile phones on campus, irrespective of their age.

Aliagan stressed that what the suspended student did by presenting a flower or fruits and kneeling down before a female while proposing to her is not in line with Islamic teachings which the university’s rules and regulations are derived from.

“Such a proposal is alien to the culture of Islam, rather it belongs to people from different world views. And Muslims have been cautioned to follow the world view of Islam. We must understand that the university is not preventing students from marrying one another if it is done in a proper way.”

Aliagan further advised the public to shun negative comments and allow the university management to act based on its law. While he also advised the university authority to remain steadfast amidst pressures in enhancing academic excellence and morality on campus, he advised students to cooperate with the institution for a productive academic community moving forward.

Sani Sa’ad Bunza, a legal expert, agrees with Aliagan, stressing that the university is legally right to implement its law, which has been approved by the National Universities Commission or NUC, the regulatory body of all Nigerian universities.

Implications

Bunza further explained that there is no remedy for the student who is an offender of the law other than to serve punishment as a deterrent to avoid future occurrences from other students.

“Notwithstanding, the student can appeal to the committee that suspended him for a review of his punishment. Alternatively, he can approach the university senate to review the law if he feels it is too harsh,” Bunza said, noting that ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

Reacting on the social, moral and educational implications of the act done by the student, Bunza clarified that the cultural and religious orientations of Kano state, where the university is located, do not condone such a public proposal.

“We should also consider the embarrassment such an act has caused the female student and her parents, and the possible suspicion that will ensue between them. The parents may even decide to get her married, which may eventually disrupt her education.”

He also said: “We also have to consider the future implications of condoning this act. If the university allows it to go unpunished, many male students will propose to female students, and the university will eventually become a romance arena, defeating the whole essence of girl-child education in a state like Kano.”

UWN

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