Students have raised concerns about a Facebook group, titled ‘Girls I’d shift if i was tipsy’, which has posted content that has been described as “derogatory” and “objectifying”.
The group, which as of this morning was open and public, consists of male UCD students and appears to have existed since 2012, with most of the activity taking place this February. All of the group’s members are men, and an early post in the group reads “right lads all girls have been removed from this group so its now a lads only group hence ya can talk more freely about girls id like to shift if i was tipsy”.
The latest post in the group is a photo of two students captioned with “Bitta cross breeding going on here” and two emojis depicting a white person and a person of colour wearing a turban, while another recent post shows two students, one male and one female, asleep in a bed together. Most photos in the group depict couples in nightclubs.
Complaints made about the group also addressed UCDSU presidential candidate Marcus O’Halloran’s membership of the group. O’Halloran has been a member of the group for over a year and has “liked” the majority of the page’s posts, including the two mentioned above. 22 of the group’s 47 members have cover photos or profile photos endorsing Marcus O’Halloran’s campaign for president.
The University Observer were made aware of the group after being contacted anonymously by two UCD students. One, who claims to be in the Ag Science faculty, said that they felt the pictures posted in the group were “objectifying and derogatory”. The student chose to use anonymity as they were concerned their complaints “could potentially ostracise me in my faculty and University”.
The same student criticised O’Halloran specifically for membership, saying “I am disgusted that this group even exists, let alone a candidate who may become President of a union whose sole purpose is to represent and care for the welfare of students, actually participates.”
The other anonymous student also raised concerns about O’Halloran’s membership, saying “I don’t think it’s appropriate that somebody running for SU president, the role which represents myself and all students should be a member of a group like this on Facebook.”
O’Halloran has released a statement on the issue, which is quoted in full below:
“I would like to sincerely apologise for my actions on this facebook page. I understand that liking these posts was unacceptable of me. I would like to make clear that my activity on this page was non-existent up until the 9th /10th February this year, and my presence came as a result of another party adding myself to the group. Liking these photos was not intended to cause harm, offence or objectification to any of the parties involved especially to the young women depicted. All parties portrayed in these photos are personal friends of mine and know about these posts. This group is not representative of my opinions on women’s rights or gender equality. There is a “Lad” culture prevalent across UCD and as president, I would like to run a sexual harassment awareness campaign to combat cat-calling and the objectification of women.
If elected, I will strive to work with the gender equality coordinator and with societies on campus to create an environment where all students can enjoy their time at university without persistent and unwanted attention of a sexual nature. I recognise sexism is rampant on UCD campus, if elected as Student Union president I intend to combat sexism and to educate students on its effects. I will implement this in my first few months of presidency of the UCDSU.”
The group in question has either been deleted or made private since O’Halloran was contacted for comment.
UCDSU Welfare Officer Maeve DeSay has been made aware of the situation and has commented on the matter, saying that similar groups have been found in other faculties. “These groups have been brought to our attention before; it is something that we are constantly working on. We do not condone any groups that make students feel unsafe on campus. We would encourage any students who are uncomfortable with these groups to bring them to our attention. It is important that all students are respected and not objectified.”
In the University Observer election poll, O’Halloran is polling second of the four candidates at 15% of likely voters, with Business & Law student Michael Foley in the lead with 18% of likely voters, and 40% of voters undecided as of Friday.
Update: The editorial team of the University Observer have decided to remove the image originally published alongside the article, which was a censored version of an image from the group.