YOU AGAINST THE DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE

Here is what I think will happen when we report back to school. First, destruction of property took place; the extent of the damage is irrelevant as far as charges to the student are concerned. Be ready to be charged for that, and expect the charges per student to be highly out of proportion to the damage. Apart from the punitive aspect, it also serves to send a message to students: strikes are bad for you in more ways than one. It’s also an opportune way to temporarily hike the fees, and raise more money to take care of the deficits. Second, someone might have to go home. And as these things often go, the real perpetrators will be left in class while some unfortunate, innocent Dick and Harry take the fall. Apart from the current first years, the rest of us saw what happened last time. Suspected students missed classes for almost a month. Yet, as it turned out, some of them were actually innocent, or at least there was no enough evidence against them. Even some of those who went home still insist they were not guilty. You can hardly win against the disciplinary committee. If you carefully read “Rules and Regulations Governing the Conduct and Discipline of Students of the University”, you will notice that the student has almost no way of defending him/herself. At one place it states that:
“…the principal, acting on behalf of the Council, is the disciplinary authority of the University and may in that capacity…. suspend any student suspected of committing any disciplinary offence under this regulation from the University pending appropriate disciplinary action.”
It neither stipulates the length of such a suspension nor specifies a timeframe within which the disciplinary committee should conduct the hearing and issue a verdict. All it says is that the first meeting must be within one month, and that after the committee’s decision one has 14 days to table an appeal. That can be construed to mean that one can possibly be suspended for five years while investigations are ongoing and/or awaiting the committee’s decision. This is not saying that it has ever happened or will ever happen, but if the university wanted to, there’s nothing in there to stop them. This is reminiscent of Moi’s era when a suspect could rot in remand for eight years, awaiting hearing, because of a chicken theft case to which he had pleaded not guilty. It makes no sense for a student to miss lectures because he is suspected of some disciplinary offence. Unless someone can explain clearly in which ways such a student can interfere with the committee’s investigation into his case. What happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’? Or is that only a prerogative of legal suspects? The university conveniently had the foresight to give itself more room to prove you guilty, one clause states:
“The committee shall hold an enquiry but shall not be required to adhere to the rules of evidence or procedures as applied in a Court of Law.”
Well, question answered, this clause enables the university, from the word go, to treat you as if you are not innocent. Woe betide anyone who shall be called up against the disciplinary committee, because the truth of the matter is they can send you home if they want to, no matter how innocent you are from any accusations. If you don’t believe it, go get a copy of the rules and regulations from the registrar’s office and see for yourself. You really should not have to, you signed them yourself and, therefore, you should know what they say. Ignorance is bliss, but it is no defense. Nobody will drop charges against you because “you did not know what you did was wrong”. There are even greater benefits of knowing the rules and regulations though. First, you can avoid committing offenses, and carry around a clean conscience. A guilty conscience can be a real burden; men have killed themselves just to forget their guilt. Second, when you know what qualifies to be an offense and what doesn’t, you will be smart enough not to admit to an offense unknowingly, unless of course, you want to be labeled ‘fala mwenye alijiuza’ or you are really homesick and getting yourself suspended is the only way to go home long enough.
The good news is that you are protected, though to a small extent in this case, by the country’s constitution. Article 37 of the Kenyan Constitution (2010) guarantees every citizen the right to assemble, demonstrate, picket and petition public authorities, provided that this is done within the limits imposed by the same constitution. Which raises an important question which will be looked at later: why does the university unconstitutionally list picketing as one of the disciplinary offenses? Admittedly, the rules and regulations have grammatical errors and ambiguities arising thereof. Maybe the unconstitutional interpretation of that ambiguous clause is not the intended one. Because if the university meant it that way then they have exposed themselves under Article 22, Enforcement of Bill of Rights in the constitution. The constitution is clear on that one: A right (in Bill of Rights) shall not be limited except by law. It goes even further to give you the right to sue anyone who tries to limit said rights.
But none of the students has the time, willingness or money to try to sue the university. Being a student is difficult enough without having to add complications. Most of students in campus just wish to complete school, get a degree, with or without any honours, and go buy their dream car so they can live life on the fast lane. That’s why no student wants to be suspended for any period of time, four or five years is long enough to be in campus. Who wants to make it any longer? Nobody. It is perhaps too much to hope the university will be lenient to those who will be convicted. Although, according to the rules and regulations, the disciplinary committee takes into consideration the general conduct (past and present) of the student. Hopefully, that means they can let you off with a warning if it is your first and only offense. Some judges do it, especially with cases involving minors, and maybe the university will borrow a leaf from the courts. Besides, suspension of students from school is detrimental to the achievement of the visions and goals of the university and the nation.
There are many ways to skin a cat. Personally, I feel that they are better ways to punish those proven guilty. Those who were suspended at the beginning of the year are now earning minimum wage waiting to complete the term of their suspension. With the exception of a few, most of them could not afford to enroll to a different course instead of wasting that time. You can imagine that the others are somewhere hustling, hoping the days move faster. All this time, the university is paying work-study students to complement the staff shortage in some departments. Enough said, a smart administrator should be able to understand what is being said here. Just because every other institution punishes students by suspending them does not mean Kimathi should follow suit. After all, this is a university of technology, therefore, innovation should be at the core of every of our daily businesses. Anyone who expects this university to rise to prominence in spite of neglecting technology is deluded. It is either Kimathi university fully embraces technology and novel ways of doing things, or it accepts a niche in the ‘Others’ category of Kenyan universities. It is easy to see that neither the administration nor the students want that eventuality. That’s common ground from which the university can work to consolidate the efforts of all stakeholders towards building itself.
A word of advice to everyone, an old adage, commonly known as Murphy’s Law, states that: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” A corollary to this law states that: “Left to themselves, things will go from bad to worse.” Both the students and the administration should keep that in mind. At the end of the day, Kimathi is both the students and the administration so it doesn’t serve either’s purpose to act vindictively against the other. The best thing is to work together to solve issues before they become problems. Finally, the last word to any hapless student who ends up facing the disciplinary committee: know everything you possibly can. If that means cramming the entire rules and regulations booklet, by all means go ahead. Having the right information can mean the difference between hurrying back to class before the CAT starts, and packing your things to leave the university for three academic years. A warning though, this is the voice of inexperience speaking. If you want the voice of experience, of people who have been there and done that, you might want to seek the counsel of the current chairman to DeKUTSO.
PS: Latest reports say that school resumes on 11th Nov., 2013. Confirm with your class representatives to see that they have the same information.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “YOU AGAINST THE DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE”

  1. Well penned. Ideally, the University can send any student home if it suspects that he/she is a potential threat to what the institution is supremely upholding: gross incompetence. The rules and regulations are there as a formality just in case someone needs to see them, but not to serve their purpose of providing guidance and spell out consequences to any student who strays away from their deemed course. Which takes me to my point; that if remotely suspected that a student had anything to with the riot, then memorizing the booklet and backing it up with the National Constitution isn’t going to bail him/her out. We have seen before the determination and the zeal people have to tame any undesirable person or situation that is being an unnecessary pain on ass. But, it’s royally advisable to know what’s necessary and your rights lest someone will get you offguard with a clause you have never heard of, but somehow would if you’d done your assignment.

    1. I totally agree. The uni has a thousand different ways to screw a student if it so wishes. But that doesn’t mean that they are always right, and that’s why one should know their rights if only to be able to realize when they are wrongly convicted.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s