Most Ghanaian lecturers deserve their "Research Allowances" – Part 2

Following the publication of the first part of my article of the same caption as the present one, the handful of readers who commented on the article wanted to know more about other aspects regarding the roles and functions of the professoriate. Well, before I venture any further with the discussion, I should promptly like to express my heart-felt gratitude to “Kofi AA,” who tersely explained the three major professorial lines or specialties of Ghanaian public university teachers. I had felt obligated to provide such information but was unable to do so, because of my lack of adequate familiarity with the system.

One apparently cynical commentator going by the name of Kobia Amenfi Oti Akenten, I am assuming that he hails from Offinso-Asante, having been partly raised at Akyem-Asiakwa myself, wanted to know which category of the professoriate best described my own role as a college professor. This is how Mr. Oti Akenten quaintly put his query: “You have delineated the categorical imperatives of the professoriate, so where do you stand yourself in this schema?”

That is a rather quaintly Kantian way to pose a question. Well, at the community college level where I teach – and I have also taught at four-year colleges and research universities, such as Indiana State University, Terre Haute; Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, New York; the Rosa Parks Campus of the College of New Rochelle; and Temple University, Philadelphia, where I was also a graduate university fellow, among other academies – is primarily a teaching university. What this means is that teaching, or classroom and laboratory instruction, is emphasized above all else. What this further means is that faculty members are expected to spend most of their working hours preparing lecture lessons and teaching. I must, however, quickly point out that “lecturing” at the community college level is more akin to running a workshop; it is more hand-on oriented than a discursive abstraction, with students actively engaged in skills and knowledge acquisition. In other words, being homilectically “preached” at, as largely pertains to many a British-oriented mainstream academy, is virtually non-existent here in the United States, even at the graduate level.

Even when I taught a graduate class in African History at Indiana State University, Terre Haute, in the 1990s, as a Visiting Lecturer, while I was also writing my doctoral dissertation, the class was run as a seminar, with students seated around a table, and me leading in the discussions of selected topics. By the way, my graduate, or post-graduate, training is in the area of African Literature, History and Culture and African-American Studies. I, however, have a First-Class (Summa-cum-Laude) degree in English (Literature, Composition, Creative Writing and Critical Thinking) from the City College of New York of the City University of New York (CCNY of CUNY).

At this flagship campus of the public academy of the City University of New York, I was also named to Phi Beta Kapa membership; I was also a Ford Foundation Undergraduate Fellow/Scholar. How I choose to define myself and professorial line/specialty is very flexible at my college, where nearly seventy-percent of our graduates proceed on to four-year institutions, both within the SUNY system and outside of the same, to earn their bachelor’s degrees and ultimately their master’s and doctoral degrees. In my own department, for example, there are several doctoral-degree holders who attended Nassau Community College. And during my own tenure as a professor at SUNY-Nassau, as my college is popularly known by local residents, I have instructed and mentored a student, Dr. Kofi Barima, a Jamaican-born adopted Ghanaian, who presently teaches African and Caribbean History on the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica.

How I choose to define my professorial specialty is flexible, because the professional/professorial promotion forms in my school award remarkable points for both research and committee work; points for teaching, on the other hand, applies to almost every instructional-staff member. This was not always the case in the sixteen years that I have been teaching there. When I first got to SUNY-Nassau, more emphases were placed on teaching and committee, or para-administrative – work. My school is contractually designated as a “Self-Governing Academy.” What this means is that virtually every faculty is actively engaged in nearly as much teaching as administrative work, such as helping to select textbooks for newly hired faculty as well as adjunct, or part-time, faculty members. I would further explain this aspect of professorial engagement in due course.

The significant professional recognition of research and creative enterprise at my school became integral to our professional evaluation, as a result of some of us expressing grave concerns about the imperative need for the College to recognize research and publication as integral and indispensable to what we did. And so the most appropriate response to the question of where I locate myself among the three functional categories of the professoriate is not so simple. I teach, research and publish – I have published more than twenty books, largely poetry and politics (Go to the search engines, Google and Barnes &, among a host of others); I have also presented papers at academic and specialty-relevant conferences; and in the mainstream American public academy, one has the liberty of doing just that.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Department of English
Nassau Community College of SUNY
Garden City, New York
August 7, 2013
E-mail: [email protected]