Liberia: Two Law Grads Narrowly Escape Academic Fraud Claims

UL President, Julius Sarwolo Nelson 

Liberia: Two Law Grads Narrowly Escape Academic Fraud Claims

--This follows Cllr. Frances Johnson-Allison’s assertion that two of her students, who recently graduated, should not have done so due to their failure in her Children’s Law course.

The President of the University of Liberia, Dr. Julius Nelson, has claimed that Cllr. Frances Johnson-Allison is yet to file a formal complaint regarding allegations of ‘academic fraud’ involving two students who allegedly bribed a staffer in her office to alter their grades.

Allison, an assistant professor at the university law school who is apparently in the U.S. on vacation, accused Alimatu Nuri Hutchinson and Ebenezer Mass Wilson of conniving with her secretary, Allen Toe, to change their “D” grades to “C,”  which paved the way for their graduation during the university’s just ended convocation.

Hutchinson and Wilson had, however, denied failing Allison’s  Children’s Law course at the Louis Arthur Grimes Law School, even though the Liberian former Chief Justice insists that they failed. 

However, the University of Liberia has claimed that the allegations against Hutchinson and Wilson were never formally communicated, but an investigation was carried out before allowing the accused to graduate. 

“On the issue of Prof. Johnson-Allison, we looked at the pros and cons, and in the wisdom of the school and the university, we gave the benefit of the doubt to the students, and we went ahead to graduate those students, and we stand by their graduation,” said Nelson at a press conference yesterday.

“Facebook is not the place where you do university business. You have to understand this, and Cllr. Johnson understands the rules of engagement at the law school and the university,” he said. “If there is a formal complaint from the professor, she will have to write to the appropriate committee. Until that is done, we don’t know that she has a complaint.”

The University of Liberia said that, of late, it has put out students who have been accused of academic crimes. 

However, Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee, in March 2022 by some students who claimed he was never seen on campus, therefore should not have graduated. In Koijee’s defense, the university administration denied the claim, saying then that Koijee met all the requirements for graduation and that there was no evidence of academic fraud, “so he was permitted to graduate.” 

The Nelson administration, Cllr. Allison says, called her on  WhatsApp to discuss the allegation after she had made a complaint to the police, which the university became aware of later.

“They called me on a conference call to ask me what happened, and I told them this particular student you are trying to graduate did not pass my course. In fact, she came and begged me to reconsider, and I said no.” 

Allison noted that after her final examinations in April, she filed her grades electronically with the aid of her secretary, who allegedly connived with the accused to alter their grades after she had left for the United States. 

Cllr. Allison said she was surprised to find out about Hutchinson and Wilson's graduation despite failing her course.  

“Alimatu came to my office and begged me to reconsider, but I told her that my job at the university is to teach and evaluate students and that I cannot change my grades just to allow her to graduate. Fail [is] fail.”

Allison, who served as Chief Justice in 1997, and a Circuit Judge as well, is described by many as a ‘hard to deal with’ professor because of her strict adherence to rules in her quest to promote academic excellence. 

She also served as chairperson for two integrity institutions — the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission and the National Elections Commission.

Meanwhile, the University of Liberia has said that registration for its next semester begins on June 19 and ends on July 8, while classes will commence on June 26. 

The University, which is the oldest and largest university in the country, offers undergraduate and graduate programs in various fields of study, including liberal arts, social sciences, natural sciences, business, law, agriculture, engineering, education, and health sciences. 

It consists of several colleges and schools, including the College of Agriculture and Forestry, the College of General Studies, the College of Health Sciences, the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, and the William R. Tolbert, Jr. College of Business and Public Administration.

The University has played a significant role in the educational development of Liberia and has produced many graduates who have gone on to hold important positions in government, academia, and various sectors of Liberian society.