FREE MY TONGUE APPEARS BEFORE THE DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE.

After the student unrest of 24th October, I was compelled to write and say some things which I felt needed to be said. I knew from the word go that I would be rubbing some people the wrong way and would attract criticism and disapproval if not outright hatred. What I had not anticipated was being invited to the disciplinary committee because of this blog’s content. It happened anyway, and on Wednesday I spent the better part of the morning waiting for my turn to go into that fateful boardroom where the guilt or innocence of some nine accused students would be determined. I heard that there were four more accused students who were not in attendance at the time. After a three hour wait, I was finally called into the boardroom around noon.
According to the letter I had received on the 26th of November inviting me to appear before the student disciplinary committee, I was accused of seven odd counts of disciplinary offenses. Surprisingly, the disciplinary committee did not have any evidence proving that I had committed any of those offenses. Apparently, everything on the letter I had received was mere allegations. However, I read something positive in all that. Despite popular opinion, the disciplinary committee is not an ogre out to devour your chances of a university education at any cost. I found out for myself that most of the members of that committee are more than ready to listen and reason. Sadly, one or two of them took things far too personally and became overly sensitive; they seemingly lacked the kind of professional detachment that helps people make important decisions easily. What bothered me more is how that narrowed their perspective. A narrow perspective is a dangerous thing when dealing with students, because inevitably we want to be sure that they are being understood. You cannot understand another person unless you widen your perspective so you can see things from their perspective.
The disciplinary committee is intimidating by its mere membership. Some very important people were present at the hearing, something the registrar AA felt the need to emphasize. As if the importance of any of the committee’s members could ever be lost on any student. Equally important, but infinitely more helpful to the students’ cases, were three DeKUTSO leaders: Dennis, finance secretary, Kuraru, vice-chairperson, and Mosi, the chairperson. Personally, having the three of them by my side was reassuring, especially during those first few moments when I did not know what to expect from the committee. I drew strength from their presence because I understood that DeKUTSO is me, and I am DeKUTSO. These were my lawyers, arbitrators, and the referees in a game that could turn dirty any moment. Some students go to these disciplinary hearings guns blazing, trying to use aggression to prove their innocence. In such cases, the student leaders serve to advice such a student on how best to handle their defense. But it’s not only students who break the rules or play unfairly; the members of the disciplinary committee might also cross some lines at times. This again leaves the student leaders with the responsibility of mediating for fairness during the hearing or deciding of a case.
I asked if the committee would be infringing upon any student’s constitutional rights in its bid to prove the accused guilty of all and/or any charges. Prof. Muthakia was quick in reassuring me that the committee recognized those rights and that none would be infringed. That was quite a relief. Initially the committee had wanted me to discuss everything I did on the 24th of October in detail, accounting for where I was, what I did and at what specific time. I refused to do this for two reasons. First, from the committee’s viewpoint, the reason I was to discuss what I did was so I could prove that I was innocent. This tacitly implied that I was being assumed guilty even before trial began, and that it was my duty to prove myself innocent. This was an assumption I could not work with.  Second, Article 31 of our constitution protects our right to privacy. Specifically, it protects us from having information relating to our private affairs unnecessarily required. Because the committee had not provided any evidence against me, I chose to exercise this right. A member of the committee became all touchy when I did, and ended up accusing me of being rude. I simply kept quite so as not to lead any credence to that claim; but here on my blog I am free to say that if exercising my God-given and constitutionally protected human rights is rudeness, then I am sorry but I cannot help it.
You may be wondering: What then had me called to appear before the disciplinary committee? Writing this blog was the main and, it also turned out, only reason. You should listen to you mother when she tells you that speaking too much is not good for you. Anyway, to prove that I am actually a stupid person, here I am doing it again. Although this time I have the verbal go-ahead of our deputy VC, Academic Affairs, Prof. Muthakia. He actually told me to write if I want to, as long as I do not infringe upon another person’s constitutional rights in so doing. I never intended to that.  It is criminal to publish malicious or libelous content, or incite others to violence. This is something that a student should have in mind before posting his/her opinion about Kimathi or its administrators online as if it is the gospel truth. At the very least, one should be considerate enough to state that whatever he/she is posting is an opinion. If you fail to do this, there’s a clause in the rules and regulations which allows disciplinary action to be taken against you. Trust me when I tell you that you do not want to face the disciplinary committee at all. Their job is to prove you guilty and then discipline you. They are highly learned and very experienced, much more than you in both cases. And to make it all worse, they are many and you are one. Acting within the rules and regulations goes a long way; it also emboldens you to stand up for yourself. Further, DeKUTSO can better defend you when you are innocent than when you are guilty.
We were told to await the verdicts within fourteen days. When mine finally comes, I’ll be here to tell you whether I am still a comrade or if some evidence suddenly popped up having me sent packing. I doubt that the committee will issue me with a gag order not to write anymore, they do not have such mandate. So rest assured that Free My Tongue will be here to keep blogging on the issues we want to be addressed in Kimathi. In the meantime, you can keep us updated on the issues affecting you as a student by commenting below.
PS: A moment of silence for Nelson Mandela, may his soul rest in eternal peace. It is sad that heroes have to die too, perhaps it happens so new ones can be born. But in commemoration of the principles he embodied, and encouraged by his selfless example, may we all set out to be heroes of something. You can be a hero in academics, sports, religion, family, leadership, etc. Pick something you are good at and give it your all, hopefully you will not have to spend 27 years in Robben Island or any prison whatsoever to win your struggle.

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