By Kadiker Rex Dahn, MA, M.Ed., PhD
In the Liberian academic culture, one of the things that I find quite disturbing is the conferring of honorary doctorate degrees by universities and colleges. Some, if not most of these institutions’ lecturers are not that voiced in academia and, that a number of these institutions were accredited “under the table” without proper verification, while others are living in past academic glory.
Amazingly, for the lack of fear of academic crime, some of these institutions in question continue to deceive their honorary recipients and the public. As of now, Liberian universities and colleges do not have the academic authority to grant honorary doctorate degrees.
Consequently, President Weah’s honorary doctorate at Cuttington University, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor’s honorary doctorate at St. Clement University College, Education Minister Ansu D. Sonii’s honorary at Starz College, and many others, are deception at the highest level. Such an effort is meant to entice and deceive recipients.
This article will argue that President Weah, Vice President Taylor, Minister Sonii and others, who are proudly masquerading as doctors, because they received honorary doctorate from Liberian universities are no doctor at all; they were enticed and deceived.
Some Liberians in and outside of government both past and present have demonstrated and continue to demonstrate that they are not content with their academic statuses.
As a result of the dissatisfaction, they falsely and misleadingly seek ways and means to bestow on themselves the honorary doctorate degree. What these academic hustlers and conferring institutions failed to realize is that in academia, there are criteria in conferring and receiving an honorary doctorate degree; there are strict guidelines to follow.
Any violation of these guidelines is a mockery of the system, and self-deception at the highest level. As best international practice dictates, the first of these guidelines requires that the institution in question to confer the honorary doctorate degree in one form or another, should offer an actual doctorate in certain discipline.
In other words, the conferring institution as part of their academic program, should and must be offering doctorate to their students. If on the other hand, that institution does not offer doctorate degree to their students, one must ask, by what authority does such an institution have to grant honorary doctorate degree?
One cannot give what one does not have. Is the conferring of an honorary doctorate in Liberia meant to entice recipients for funding purposes or, as we say it in Liberian terms, the institution to be in good rapport with the recipient? Something is inherently, and terribly wrong within the academic community in Liberia.
Nowhere in our Liberian Constitution that requires that in order to be considered for appointed or elected position, one must, be a doctorate holder. If this proposition is true, we wonder why those in government are fascinated with honorary doctorate even at the point of making mockery of themselves, and our politicized academic system?
Consider this: people refer to President Weah as Doctor, Doctor because he received honorary doctorate from Cuttington University and that of the University of Liberia. Do people really in their right minds believe President Weah to be Doctor, Doctor? Let me be emphatic here: President Weah’s achievements as well as those of Vice President Taylor and Minister Sonii warrant receiving honorary doctorate, but the current granting institutions are not clothed with the academic authority to do so.
Arguably, our contention is that the lack of an academic authority by any university in Liberia to confer such honor invalidates President Weah so-called Doctor, Doctor Titles.
Imagine all of Liberian universities and colleges, including community colleges conferring honorary doctorates. Will the nation not be producing a contaminated and corrupted academic society where our country’s doctorates will only be in name, but actualizing those doctorates with respect to competence and expertise will be remote?
Certainly, it would. We maintain that it is an academic crime for financial reasons to entice, distort and deceive honorary recipients when those academies in question as of now are not clothed with the academic authority to do so.
This concern is not only about those in government, because our Liberian churches are also inundated with the need for this honorary doctorate degree. Some of our churches at times invite pastors and bishops, especially from those ones from Nigeria to participate in a church program.
At the end of such a program, the Nigerian Pastor or Bishop will confer an honorary doctorate degree to their protégé, and subsequently, that church will have a “Reverend Doctor.” Here again, Liberian clergymen and women are making mockery of themselves and the church for which Christ died.
We wonder why our politicians, before election or appointment in government, were not called doctors to impress the Appointing Power or electorates, but suddenly, after appointment and election, they are concerned about such a title? To our church leaders, one does not have to be a reverend doctor before becoming a good church leader or the ability to accurately exegetic the Bible.
Bestowing such a title without going to through normal processes invalidates the distinction between the church and the corrupt world. Church leaders as ambassadors of Christ must be above reproach.
This article is not meant to demean President Weah, Vice President Taylor, neither Minister Sonii and others, who have climbed the honorary doctorate ladder at Liberian universities and colleges. Our efforts are also intended to remind our Liberian academic institutions to guard against continuously conferring honorary degrees, especially considering the academic culture in the country.
Frankly, President Weah and others who have received honorary doctorates for “monetary gains” were enticed and deceived by their conferring institutions, because these institutions fully know that at the moment, they do not have the academic authority to do so.
Certainly, calling President Weah Doctor, Doctor is a mockery, because people, who utter such title, say it with the tune and comprehension of duplicity, dishonesty and deception. Consequently, it could be appropriate for President Weah and others to reject, recant and return those questionable honorary doctorates to their givers just like how former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf rejected and refused to accept honorary doctorates from any Liberian university.
We urge all Liberian universities and colleges to stop the enticement and deception in conferring an honorary doctorate since Liberian higher academic institutions as of now, do not have the academic authority to do so. We urge Liberian media to desist from calling President Weah Doctor, Doctor, because that conferment was done under the canopy of enticement, deception and lack of an authority.
Since Liberian academic institutions as of now do not have the academic authority to confer an honorary doctorate, one must ask, what happens since the honorary has already been conferred?
Keep posted for our next article under the topic: Can Cuttington University and University of Liberia Revoke President Weah’s Honorary?
About the author: Kadiker Rex Dahn holds a PhD in Historical, Philosophical and Social Foundations of Education from the University of Oklahoma. He also holds two Masters respectively from University of Oklahoma and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the United States. He once served as a Deputy Minister of Education and Deputy Director General, National Commission on Higher Education. He is an author of the book, “Learning from the Lives of Exiled Liberians: An Oral History from 1979-2006. He is a member of the North America Scholar Consortium, Membership with Highest Honor. Contact: [email protected]