Babcock: Is engaging in private sex capable of tarnishing the image of a University?

A student of Babcock University, Ilishan, Ogun State, “Miss Y”, was found in a trending sex tape which surfaced on online on Wednesday, 21/11/2019. According to the University, the lady was a third-year student of the Accounting Department.

Well, the University (a Christian co-educational Nigerian University owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nigeria) confirmed the expulsion of the young lady and also confirmed that her partner had been earlier expelled in February, 2019 for various acts of misconduct. Interestingly, it was said that, according to her written statement, the immoral event took place at St. Bridget Hospital, Abeokuta, Ogun State, where the boy has been undergoing rehabilitation for “different destructive addictions”.

From the University’s report, she was expelled from the University after due process was followed, for violation of the University’s rules and regulations. More so, the written statement mentioned above is a pointer to the fact that some hearing took place.

Nature of relationship between a university and a student

What is the nature of the relationship between a university and a student? In the famous case of Garba v. University of Maiduguri [1986] 1 NWLR (Pt.18) 550, the great late Chief FRA Williams SAN had argued that, essentially, the relationship between a university and every student is based on contract. The university in question here was the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID), a Federal Government institution, established by the University of Maiduguri Act. Late Chief referred to a number of authorities in support of his position including Notes by Professor H.W.R. Wade in 85 L.Q.R. 46 captioned “Judicial Control of Universities” and later in 90 L.Q.R. 157158 quoting Lord Devlin’s Report on the sit-in strike of students at Cambridge University which, inter alia, reads:

“Contract is the foundation of most domestic or internal systems of discipline. The power to discipline should be inferred from the acceptance of it in the contract of matriculation.”

The Supreme Court of Nigeria however rejected Chief William’s argument holding (in agreement with Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi – Counsel to the students) that the relationship between the students of UNIMAID in that case was principally statutory and not contractual; and that under Section 2 (1)(i) of the University of Maiduguri Act, the students were in fact members of the University.

More so, the Court held that the suit instituted by the students in that case was hinged on a constitutional provision (and not solely on contract) in that the students prayed the Court to declare that their expulsion from UNIMAID constitutes a violation of their fundamental rights to fair hearing. Their expulsion was sequel to the riotous behaviour of about 500 students in the University at the time.

Now, Babcock University is a private institution not created by statute. Thus, the relationship between the students and the University cannot be said to be statutory. It is safe to conclude that same is purely contractual. It also follows that the power of the University to discipline the young lady flows from that contract. Miss Y must have made an undertaking, both written and implied, to be of good conduct and not to indulge in any conduct that is capable of tarnishing the image of the University. She is bound.

Is engaging in private sex capable of tarnishing the image of the University?

Sex is a private affair that is hardly ever consummated in the open. Even the laws of the country do not criminalise fornication between two consenting adults. Casual sex/fornication is purely an immoral conduct and a sin properly so described in the Holy Books especially the Bible. The University may freely make it part of their rules and regulations that no student, especially unmarried students, must engage in sexual activity within the University premises. The students are bound to abide and put their youthful exuberance into check. However, if there is any rule stating that no student is allowed to have sex even outside the University, then that would be nearly impossible to enforce for being nearly an overzealous bargain.

The only interesting twist is where proven sexual activity outside the University premises by a student of the University now brings the name of the University into ridicule – A classic example being the trending sex tape of Miss Y, a student of the University (now expelled). Indeed, there is no doubt that the development, an otherwise private action, constitutes an embarrassment to the University and the institution is perfectly within reasonable bounds to take action. The unholy act itself is not basically the problem. Rather, it is the fact that it was reduced into a video for public viewing and pleasure; to the detriment of the University’s hard-earned reputation and displeasure. Thus, the student is being punished for tarnishing the image of the University and not squarely for putting into private use, her private organs outside the shores of the University. It is immaterial that she never consented to the video or that she might have consented, but never intended that it would be made public.

The action of expelling the young lady is one that may not be successfully challenged for running foul of the law. Furthermore, if the University got it right procedurally, like it does appear, it would be difficult to fault the expulsion of Miss Y on ground of lack of fair hearing.

Are there other options aside expulsion?

Yes. Perhaps expulsion is not the best way to deal with the sensitive situation. It is conceded that rules are rules. However, indefinite suspension of the lady may be more plausible until she is able to account and atone for her deeds, and possibly resume academic activities in pursuit of the accounting profession. By this, the University may ultimately rescue the young lady from attaining stardom in pornographic displays. The parents of these students trust the University to bring up their children both in character and learning. It is conceded that many parents fail in their principal duty to properly bring up their wards but thereafter turn around to wholly rely on teachers and academic institutions to do so. This is wrong and must be condemned. Parents and teachers must all collaborate in bringing up worthy children that would be useful to themselves and also make the society proud.

The irony of the situation is that Miss Y’s partner is reportedly in a rehab centre and right under that condition and at the centre, they travelled the world of dishonourable ecstasy that has filled their faces with filth and shame.

Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has worked with a number of startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.


  • Ogo

    The write up is too long . can’t read to the end. I wish there was a better way of summarising it.we are not all lawyers

    • Stephen Azubuike

      Thank you for reading. The summary is that the relationship between Babcock University and her students, including the female student, is contractual, i.e., based on contract. Both parties are bound by the contract. The students are bound to follow the rules and regulations of the University.

      Secondly, the student is being punished for tarnishing the image of the University and not basically because she had sex outside the campus.

      In conclusion, we believe that expulsion is not the best way to deal with the issue. May be indefinite suspension could have helped, while the lady undergoes some counselling.

      Hope this helps.

  • Levi Chiefuna

    Well elucidate legal implications. I agree with your exposition of the law but I disagree to the extent that a legal action will not avail the student. I believe the law can be explored. Whatever rules the university has must be incidental to the university education. The university is in locus parentis, now can her parents disown her?
    Or is the university’s image more tarnished than that of her parents?

    There are some fundamental questions the university ought to answer. I really believe this issue should be interrogated further. Now does it mean that she can’t go to school again because the world has heard that she had sex? I don’t think the law can be that archaic.

    Let’s don’t forget that the fact that the video is in the public domain was not intentional. It was the deliberate wicked act of another possibly to get her expelled. Now the university’s only concern is self preservation and not her reform.

    I will really welcome an opportunity to fight for her!!!

  • Udo-Ekong

    I agree it’s difficult to contend when one does not have the benefit of reading what the schools rules and regulations are. People however do have some basic freedoms that even rules and regulations cannot infringe upon.

    The real peculiarity about this particular case was the fact that the act complained about did not take place inside the school or even during the academic session.

    The issue then is can the school control what the students do when they are not in school? Do they give up their Constitutional freedoms when they gained admission?

    Assuming there is a rule or regulation governing their conduct on or off campus, if that rule or regulation conflicts with their Constitutional rights which one will prevail?

    To that extent I do not agree with you that seeking legal redress is a waste of time.

    On another tangent altogether, should the school be more interested in its image than in the education of the student?

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