PRESENTED AT THE STAFF ORIENTATION AND DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE SEMINAR
LECTURERS’ WORK ETHICS: A PUBLIC RELATIONS APPROACH.
WEDNESDAY, 10TH JANUARY, 2018
ACADEMIC CONFERENCE CENTRE, KWARA STATE POLYTECHNIC, ILORIN.
DR.MRS. M.K. AJILEYE.
The timeliness of this seminar coming up at the inception of a new year and the first semester of this 2017/2018 session cannot be over emphasized because it can serve to ginger us up into doing what we have been hired for. As we all know that all work without play makes Jack or Jill, a dull person. Hence, reveals the relevance of this seminar which is a clarion call to call off our lectures and spare time to listen since we have been busy talking to our students in our lecture rooms. Today, we are called to relax, sit back, and be enlightened and refreshed through this forum. The topic of this seminar, lecturers’ work ethics is sharp and apposite to our duties as lecturers and it is balanced with a public relations point of view since we are public servants. This would serve to refresh our minds on things some of us have known and also to inculcate some virtues that will enrich our lives and make us more relevant in our profession. Lecturing or teaching as a profession is a noble one. Nobility connotes having, showing, or coming from personal qualities that people admire such as honesty, truthfulness, faithfulness, loyalty, generosity, courage, etc. It has to do with our possessing outstanding qualities and being charactised by superiority of mind, character, ideals, or morals. Synonyms like blue-blooded, highbred, upper-class, upper-crust, aristocratic, grand, and wellborn come to play. Therefore, our goal is to reason together on how we ought to do our work with very high or excellent qualities illustriously and aristocratically by applying public relations to lecturers’ work ethics.
DEFINITIONS OF SOME KEY WORDS
There are some key words that must be defined or explained if justice would be done to this topic. For instance, a lecturer is one who gives a talk or speech to a group of students or people about a particular subject or topic. In essence, lecturers engage in a given discourse before an audience or class, especially, for instruction. A “lecture” from which the word “lecturer” is derived means a discourse given before an audience or class, especially ,for instruction; it also means a formal reproof with synonyms thus: baste, bawl out, berate, call down, castigate, chastise, chew out, dress down, flay, hammer, jaw, keelhaul, lambaste (or lambast), scold, rag, rail (at or against), rant (at), rate, ream(out), rebuke, reprimand, reproach, score, tongue-lash, and upbraid according to Merriam Webster Dictionary. Can you imagine the great responsibilities that rest on lecturers since the word “lecture” has all the above synonyms? The demand on lecturers is colossal as we shall later apply.
“Ethics” is the next key word under consideration and Merriam-Webster gives it the following meanings:
The rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good or bad;
a branch of philosophy dealing with what is morally right or wrong; a
belief that something is very important; the discipline dealing with what
is good and bad and with moral duty or obligation; a set of moral
principles: a theory or system of moral values; the principles of
conduct governing an individual or a group (e.g. professional
ethics); a consciousness of moral importance; and a set of moral issues
or aspects (as rightness).
With the above meanings of ethics in mind, their applications to lecturers are huge and tremendous.
“Public relations” is another word we are considering. It has been rightly asserted that a public relations has over two hundred and fifty (250) definitions. However, we shall zero in on just two of them to drive home our point. The first is the Chartered British Institute of Public Relations definition and it says, “It is the deliberate, planned, and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organisation and its public(s)”. By the way, what do we mean by the term public? Nolte (1974:125) gives his submission on a public thus: “The public is everyone interested in, or affected by an organisation, or whose opinions can affect the organisation”. The fact that public relations is a deliberate, calculated, considered, measured, reasoned, studied, thoughtful, thought-ot, and weighed effort is very crucial.
The second definition of public relations is Moss’ (1990) definition which says that, “Public relations is reputation management, reinforcing reputation enhancing reputation, and combating damage to reputation”.
THE GRAVITY OF OUR PROFESSION
Applying the synonyms of the word “lecture” above to lecturers’ relationship to students is a no mean matter. As lecturers, we have to think about or discuss issues and decisions relating to our work among the students carefully and thoughtfully. We cannot afford to be given a bad name; therefore, our actions and words must be well calculated, measured, and weighed. Since a public relations is deliberate that is, intentional and reasoned, then it must be planned. Applying this means that our lectures must be chewed over, contemplated and meditated upon. In the same vein, our words, actions and attitudes to students must be thoroughly weighed, mulled, and ruminated upon, since public relations is planned.
Planning involves strategy which is a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal. Our goal as lecturers is to produce students of academic excellence and enviable character. Mind you, it is impossible to give out what you do not have. So, let us look inward; we have to ask ourselves whether the stuff we are made of is of academic excellence. Is our character enviable as male or female lecturers? Are we morally sound?
BEWARE OF MISCONDUCT IN OUR PROFESSION
As lecturers are we involved in sexual harassment? Are we among the men that have earned themselves ugly names as a result of their uncontrolled sex appetite? We shall spare ourselves of the shame of mentioning some of those names. However, you know yourselves and it is high time you quitted this nefarious act.
To our female lecturers, how does our dressing look like? We ought to be aunties and mothers to these students. Why should we be involved in putting on spaghetti, off shoulders backless, frontless, armless, “show-me-your-breast or buttocks? Aunties and mothers, are we not supposed to be the epitome of moral conduct? Remember, we are applying public relations to our work as lecturers. I hope we do not have men exposing their chests, sagging, bouncing, etc.? It is very unethical and unsavoury to be engaged in near nudity dressing.
Our profession is a noble one as it has been rightly asserted. As noble men and women, we cannot afford to be disloyal, undedicated, or unsteadfast. Our best bet is to show a complete support for our employer. Loyalty is a quality that must be in us as lecturers. We should have allegiance, commitment, devotion, faithfulness, and fidelity towards the management. A loyal member of staff will not sabotage, say or do anything that will damage the position of the management. The reason being that the success of the management is our success and if it fails, we have all failed. Our support for the management must be a constant one.
DEADLY PITFALLS TO AVOID
Kindly listen to this very carefully. There are four (4) things which, if you love, can cause you a downfall. In Yoruba, their first letter starts with “O”. They are “owó”, “obìnrin”, “ojúkòkòrò”, and “òkíkí” meaning, “money, woman, greed, and fame (power). If lecturers are given to the love of these four things, they are already overtaken by their appetites. An obsession of any of these appetites is very dangerous. Money in itself is not evil but the love of it is a bane (not a blessing at all). It is avarice i.e. a strong desire to have or get money; or excessive or insatiable desire for wealth or gain. In other words, there is a strong force or longing to get rich quick or fast. Why should we as lecturers not be satisfied with the salary we earn? Why should fraudulent schemes, enterprises or activities be traced to us? Why should we get involved in admission racketeering or certificate forging?
As lecturers, we cannot afford to have any of the four appetites (sex, greed, money, and power) dominate us if we must have a good image or goodwill before our students. Extra-textually, the holy Bible and the holy Qur’an attest to the fact that God hates these aforementioned pitfalls. For instance, in Qur’an 24:21, it is written:
O you who believe! Do not follow the footsteps of Satan (should remember that) he (Satan) surely enjoins immorality and indecency.
Also in Qur’an 24:19, we have the below:
Those who love to spread immorality among the believers, will have a woeful punishment in this world and the next. And Allah knows while you do not know (the consequences of this evil).
To cap it all, we are admonished in Qur’an 17:32 thus:
And keep away from adultery and fornication; surely, it is an abominable act and an extremely evil practice.
Still on extra-textual terrain ,can you just imagine how the love of women (i.e. the sex appetite) destroyed Samson in the Bible? For Gehazi, it was the love of money that hijacked his destiny. Esau lost his birthright because of his inability to control his greed appetite; he could not resist the temptation of the red pottage. It should be unheard of any lecturer to be given to food appetite such as smoking, alcoholism, hard drugs etc. What lesson would students learn from you? Judas betrayed Jesus because he could not resist the temptation of thirty (30) pieces of silver. What is your own “red pottage” or “thirty pieces of silver”? Extra-textually too, Macbeth, in one of the Shakespeare’s plays, killed King Duncan while he was sleeping in his house as his guest because of his vaulting ambition for fame or power. He wanted to be the number one man in Scotland. He betrayed the trust his cousin, the said King Duncan placed on him. As lecturers, we must not betray Kwara Polytechnic.
Let us take a cue from Apostle Paul who in I Corinthians 9:27 declares, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection”. These four (4) appetites must be subjugated and controlled if we have to represent this Polytechnic well.
THE SYMBIOTIC STAFF/STUDENTS’ RELATIONSHIP
Since public relations is deliberate and must be planned, it must also be sustained as revealed in the definition above. Concerted efforts must be made to keep mutual understanding in motion if it is already established through a deliberate and planned effort. The question is how do we establish a mutual understanding with our students as lecturers? Mutual understanding has to do with knowing our public(s) i.e. our students being our clients. This involves knowing their environment i.e. the conditions that surround them; the influences that affect their growth, health, and progress. Do we care as lecturers to know our clients’ conditions, motivations, and dispositions? Do we bother to probe into their health, financial, and cultural background?
In other words, do we know their psychographics which culminates into their dos and don’ts according to their psychological variables? If we do, then we will not be found extorting money from students whose environment or background is a poverty stricken one! You will rather come to their aid financially and never squeeze money from them because it is likened to squeezing blood out of them. Do you know that some of them are coming from an atmosphere of hatred and a climate of concentrated confusion and complication? Do you not know that our care and concern can be a soothing restorative agency as balm? Why add to their sorrows, aches, and pains by forcing them to buy handouts? Why should we be charging them to pay for project supervision? In which way are we justified for asking students (supposed clients or patients) for gratification? Worse still, those female students that have no money power, we are demanding for their bottom power. Don’t we fear God? This act is villainous and impious. Can you sincerely pray this prayer: “May whatever I have done for my students be done for my children?”
I am sorry to draw this personal example: I remember some years back, one of our postgraduate diploma in public relations (PGDPR) sets sent a gift to me through the then PG Coordinator .Without even opening to see what was inside it, I told him to return it to them. I later told them that in one of our classes that gratification can only be accepted by me when they have graduated and become comfortable outside there and now come back to say thank you for a job well-done. The said PG Coordinator took a cue from that. He is right here today, and can bear witness to this fact. Staff/students relationship matters a great deal in our work ethics. In the light of this, how do we handle the students we are supervising their projects? Do we see them as potential colleagues (in the nearest future) or slaves? Are our words to them seasoned with graciousness or as poisonous as venom? Do they fear to approach us because of our razor blade tongue with which you tongue lash them? How does our academic dissemination look like? Do we have class control?
Mr. Lecturer, Miss Lecturer, and Mrs. Lecturer, can you lend me your ears? Don’t we betray the trust put in us as role models to our students? Do we seek to do our best in attending lectures promptly or punctually, allotting and awarding marks, and providing guidance and counseling? Do we handle them as our wards and children? Do they see us as lions that would devour them through sexual harassment or extortion of money? How cordial and friendly are we with our students?
My friends and colleagues, are we financially disciplined? I have been informed of the fact that in some schools, extortion comes through the primary and secondary level. The primary level is such in which students are charged for projects, sales of handouts, signing of forms, etc while a secondary extortion is via gratification. Are we involved in any of these? Let our conscience bear us witness.
The relationship among us as lecturers ought to be cordial. The students are watching and they will emulate us. Junior lecturers must have the willingness to learn from the older ones. Teachableness must be our watchword. It is sad that these days many young lecturers are not ready to learn. In fact, they call the elderly ones (who are their senior colleagues) “old school”. These eaglets are unwilling to toe the line of patience, humility, endurance, perseverance, through which the elderly ones got to the top of the ladder. Rather, these junior ones want to ride the latest jeep within the space of one or two years they got employed. No wonder, they are involved in different kinds of social vices and fraudulent acts. They have forgotten that Rome was not built in a day.
In this part of the globe, respect for elders and for your senior colleagues is a strong factor to facilitate harmonious relationship. In like manner, the senior colleagues have their own roles to play towards building healthy relationship with the junior ones. They should be willing and available to carry them along. It would create a conducive working atmosphere. Be careful and do not say, “I have connection and no matter what crime I commit, I will wriggle out”. We should be wise and put in our best in the performance of your duties in order to make those who sponsored or paved way for us into this institution proud of us. In creating a good work environment, your ethics should be “I am in this place and work should go on very well”. The fact that you do not search for job but probably got it on a platter of gold does not mean you should abuse the privilege. Remember that there are thousands outside there with their worn out shoes looking for jobs. The fact is that students know the lecturers who are teaching them well or not; they know those who are swindling money from them; they also know those who are abusing or harassing them. In fact, these students have some ugly nick names for those bad lecturers. I have restrained myself not to let the cat out of the bag by not mentioning those obnoxious names. However, you know yourselves and God knows you too. Do not forget that a good name is better than silver and gold.
LECTURERS’ CONDUCT IN EXAMINATIONS
Now speaking on examinations, we must set standard questions according to the NBTE submissions. When one talks of standard, quality and quantity must be brought into bearing. For instance, a three (3) unit course must have seven (7) questions out of which five (5) must be answered within three (3) hours. However, for a two (2) unit course, six (6) questions out of which four (4) must be answered in two hours. Also, in setting and handling our questions, we must ensure that there is no leakage.
During examinations, as invigilators, we must be punctual; we must not coarse our students i.e. there should be no shouting upon them, beating, slapping, and threatening at all. Do not be involved in tearing of students’ examinations’ papers if they are found cheating. If a student is caught in an of the examination’s malpractices, the procedure is that you should get your evidence; ask them to write statement; write your own report; and hand such a student over to the security unit. Colleagues, no matter the provocation, you should restrain yourself from slapping, beating, or cursing any student. When it is time to collect examinations’ scripts, we must collect the scripts ourselves as invigilators. We are not to allow students to do your job. Also, do the counting thoroughly so that the number tallies with what you have on the attendance sheet which you have monitored them to write.
LECTURERS’ IMAGE MAKING
Taking a cue from Moss’ definition above, one can deduce the immenseness of image making being woven with the issue of reputation. In x-raying this definition, we may ask these questions: “why the need to manage our reputation?”; “of what use is it to reinforce our reputation?”; “what is the rational behind reputation enhancement?”; and “does it make sense to combat any damage to our reputation?”
Frankly speaking, it does not only make a sense but, in fact, layers of senses to fight against whatever can dent our image as lecturers and an organization as a whole. In essence, reputation management, reputation reinforcement, reputation enhancement, and reputation refurbishing cannot be over-emphasized among lecturers. We want to make it crystal clear that “reputation” and “image” are Siamese twins; they are inseparable.
The onus lies on us as lecturers to manage well our reputation. Let us live in the consciousness of the fact that we have a name to protect. As lecturers, we ought to be a blessing (i.e. by being good daddies, mummies, uncles, aunties,and counselors) and not a bane. We must shun the social vices as enumerated earlier on. However, those of us who have a good reputation and image, we must not rest on our oars but rather we ought to reinforce it. Through diligence, integrity, dignity, discipline, and determination we shall enhance our reputation. In case, you have got your reputation damaged already, then you have to muster all efforts to apply the public relations tools called the constituents of public spirit which are image, opinion, goodwill, acceptability, and understanding. Surely, these are attributes of public spirit that guarantee a good working and operational environment for lecturers and organisations. It is better late than never. One’s broken pieces can be gathered and rebuilt if only after hearing this lecture, one determines to call it a quit with all those vices you have been known by. Our decision to change will determine our destiny: We have got to discern the fact that “decision determines destiny”. The sky is just the starting point for us to be great if we change our old bad ways. After all, this is the era of “change”. I mean, change for good. Your attitude to what we are saying now will determine your altitude.
A story is told of a lecturer who was always performing his duties faithfully without any iota of extortion or gratification. One of the students he helped is a son to one of those at the top of the echelon of power. The boy asked his father to give the said lecturer a very lucrative job at the national level. You never can tell who God can use to lift you up. Just apply this public relations principle of good reputation and image.
From Moss’ definition above, we can deduce that the issue of image is being hammered. Image is a very sensitive thing and we must not joke with it as lecturers. Image in public relations is done by putting the impression of somebody or an organisation in the minds of the people positively. This time around, we mean that as lecturers we ought to position ourselves in the psyche of our students dignifyingly or acceptably. Remember, once the mind is captured, the battle is won. This is a kind of image making of mental association which is an implant, a storing in the minds of people the goodwill of ourselves as lecturers and our organisation (which is Kwara Polytechnic). Therefore, a public relations is the moral aspect of our lives, businesses, and organisations when we view it as an idealistic front.
By the way, “what do we mean by image? It is the picture one has about something. It can be a representation or an impression giving you a display or an attitude or behavior of a person or an organisation. The image created by one’s attitude may be a favourable or an acceptable one on one hand while on the other hand it may be a namby-pamby or an unacceptable one. Image is a very crucial and highly sensitive thing. Take for instance, in 1968, a company just established a branch in a village. Unfortunately, the driver of the company’s vehicle (with its logo) killed a goat. It took the company seven solid years to convince the public that it is not a goat killer. Image, therefore is a very delicate thing. It can be positive or negative. It is made up of diverse parts; though it is a whole, it has many complicated facets. In an organisation, it starts right from the behavior of the gateman or the office receptionist to that of the chief executive. All the people working in an organisation are those referred to as organisation; it is not the building at all.
Therefore, we must be careful of the type of image we are projecting to our publics (first to our students and then to those outside the four walls of Kwara Polytechnic). Our actions and inactions must not cause crisis because a crisis can crush an organization. Oh my colleagues! Why should we, through the aforementioned vices, crush our blessed Polytechnic?
Buttressing the above point, Cutlip and Centre (1985) submit that two of the purposes of public relations are: (1) to achieve goodwill and maintain public interest in the activities of an organisation so as to facilitate expansion and successful operation of an organisation (2) to safeguard reputation. This includes internal and external reputation. For instance, public relations techniques are used so that staff will easily identify with the objectives of the organisation actions. In the same vein, actions that are likely to affect image, public interest and mutual understanding are eliminated.
As lecturers, what image have we printed of ourselves to our students? Have we marred or made our image before these future leaders? Good image is a must.
In public relations, there are some type