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Sexual scandal at Makerere University

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Added 24th July 2018 06:56 PM

When the administrative unit leaders fail to provide clear direction, the outcome is that employees struggle with or exploit the ambiguity resulting from loose-coupling; disciplinary decisions are delayed, deferred or, as it were, punted upwards.

Sexual scandal at Makerere University

When the administrative unit leaders fail to provide clear direction, the outcome is that employees struggle with or exploit the ambiguity resulting from loose-coupling; disciplinary decisions are delayed, deferred or, as it were, punted upwards.

By Samuel Baligidde

The news, fake or real, of a delegation supposed to have travelled to the UK to access a colonial map of what used to be called Bukedi District isn't disappointing, it is shameful. 

If after a whopping 56 years of political Independence and 32 of "siasa", Government has to consult the former colonial masters on the location of Uganda's internal district borders, then there is a huge gap in ‘patriotism'. I wonder what my former instructor Afande Lulu Itpa might say!

Equally shameful though has been confirmation by the Committee that investigated sexual harassment at Makerere that the problem indeed exists.

Mightn't scandal be symptomatic of a gap in understanding the pervasive ecology of chaos at Makerere University? What's odd is how little inquisitiveness there has to date been about the social dynamics involved? Is it because growing concerns over financial transgressions and the institution's other chaos fractals created by disorganization causing the perennial confusion and disarray created by student strikes and staff industrial action have edged out sexual transgressions?

Problem is: such fractals are self-reinforcing but self-similar across different scales throughout the entire university system; requiring the managerial and administrative leadership destroy or modify the fractals' cultural, political and material supports. Are the loopholes in implementing the existing policy due to loose-coupling? With a grasp of Makerere's tribulations, a penetrating reflection on how it got where it is, is unfortunately still a question having only conjectural answers.

When the administrative unit leaders fail to provide clear direction, the outcome is that employees struggle with or exploit the ambiguity resulting from loose-coupling; disciplinary decisions are delayed, deferred or, as it were, punted upwards. Yet an administrative structure enabling an organization to flourish must encourage best practices; something that, according to the report, seems to be absent.

Complex systems such as higher educational institutions are not immune to perforation by perverted behaviour which, if not adequately handled, becomes a ‘strange attractor' of chaos. Shifting the focus to structural conditions evokes counterintuitive rumination about the scandal enterprise including the claim that the sexual liberalization culture has led to more scandal outbreaks.

Insofar as a more permissive society at all universities has perforated modesty and reticence, allowing public discussion about sex sets the stage for increased disputations about how sexual issues should be handled. 

Reports about the commodification of sex has turned scandal on its head by examining the social forces constructing it, rather than the actions of the offending individuals and luckless victims caught in the middle of the centrifuges of Makerere's tribulations. Interest in the matter tends to veer more towards publicity of the flawed process of management than the social transgressions preceding it. There apparently is no correlation between moral rule-breaking and scandal itself. False allegations have graver repercussions than proven transgressions, yet unpublicized rule-breaking occurs with no ensuing scandal. 

Scandal-provoking accusations like the ones politicians have to endure do not have to be true; they only have to catch the publicity wave on social media and of course in the popular tabloids. With its own unique logic altering the meaning of the transgressions and shaping people's responses, publicity is sometimes a maligning social force. The tragedy though, is that it cannot be eliminated through explanation alone. Scandal attracts all sorts of cheerleaders and means different things to different people. 

The devil works overtime these days, doesn't he? Those in thrall to scandal assume it originates from actual moral misconduct. Let's allow them to be right; people do really bad things these days, don't they? Constructivists maintain, albeit erroneously, that scandal is created by public opinion rather than the moral failings of the scandalizers and that it has less to do with the individuals involved! Is it then about moral panic or discordant cultural perceptions, one might ask? Anyone researching scandal phenomena will be overwhelmed with data, won't they?

The writer lectures at Uganda Martyrs University-Nkozi.

 

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