Liberia: University of Liberia Denies Allegations of Academic Fraud

Cllr. Jallah A. Barbu, dean of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia


…. Cllr. Jallah Barbu, the Dean of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, says Cllr. Lucia Sonii-Gbala's allegation cannot be proven.

Cllr. Jallah Barbu, the Dan of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia, has claimed that  Cllr. Lucia Sonii-Gbala, an assistant professor who resigned after accusing two of her students of academic fraud, has yet “to provide evidence to support her claims.”

Gbala claimed that her resignation was triggered by the university's decision to clear students who failed her course for its 103 convocations recently. 

“I am resigning as a consequence of (i) the recent event involving the unilateral change of the final grades of the Applied Legal Studies II Course taught by me, (ii) the arbitrary clearance of students, who failed ALS II, for graduation, and (iii) the fact that a request for investigation still remains unaddressed by the University of Liberia. 

However, Barbu disagreed and claimed that the University was forced to undertake a review of Gbala's grades after realizing that ‘her grading was foreign’.

Barbu noted that when he engaged Gbala, he was told that the entire class had engaged in plagiarizing for which the mark “P” and “V” were used.

Barbu added that students who had the foreign marks on their copybooks began to inquire, leading to Gbala being asked to review her grading to comply with the University’s system but she refused.

Barbu noted that Gbala’s decision to boycott two separate meetings with both the University President and Vice President prompted the University to set up a committee to review the grades she had submitted foreignly.  

Barbu observed that “none of the copybooks reviewed contained a single comment referencing similarities of answers and the grammar, analysis, and general content of literally all “the copybooks” were not close to “any publishable material.”

According to him, the above reason is not sufficient to allow the University to make a final determination as answers were reviewed against the question.

“The University authorities, at a meeting with the president, instructed that I, the senior lecturer, report accordingly. I reasoned I could do this alone, therefore I asked Associate Dean Sumo and together we undertook a detailed review of each student’s book. 

“Our findings were interesting. First, you made very positive comments on students’ books, commending them in most parts of their answers. A notation of excellent or very good signals an acceptable work product. How could that lead to disqualification? Not a single copybook had any comment on academic malpractice such as spying or plagiarism. 

“No copybook contained a single comment referencing another copybook for similarity of answers,” he said. “On the other hand the grammar, analysis, and general content of literally all of the copybooks do not reach close to any published materials. One wonders how this could be plagiarism?”

Gbala is the second faculty member to resign from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, specifically citing the school administration’s alleged tolerance for academic fraud. 

The first to resign was former Chief Justice Frances Johnson-Allison, who accused two students, Alimatu Nuri Hutchinson and Ebenezer Mass Wilson, of conniving with her secretary, Allen Toe, to alter their failing grades from “D” grades to “C,” which paved the way for their graduation.

 Barbu, who is also a professor at the law school, said an investigative team was set up by the school’s authority to review the students’ copybooks, and there was no evidence of plagiarism.