CONSENT as a campus issue is one that continually pops up. Particularly over the last few years, the conversation has grown rapidly. This is partly as a result of campus campaigns in UCD such as #NotAskingForIt or Sex Out Loud. Other influences include incidents such as the Stanford University Brock Turner case, where a female student was raped on campus.
A similar incident occurred in UCD before Christmas, when a woman was raped in the early morning hours.
In this instance, UCD and UCD Students’ Union were both aware of the investigation for at least a full day before addressing students. Bear in mind during that particular time of year, there are exams and many people would have been studying late in the library. The union in particular promoted the walk safe campus service. Yet did not see fit to tell students until it had been reported in the media.
It seems a strange turnaround following the espoused policies of both the union and the university earlier in the year.
This time last year, consent classes were announced for UCD. These classes were supposed to be introduced by September, with pilot classes run by the union. At the time, President of the SU Marcus O’Halloran said that he believed the university would be involved in running them. This would have been something similar to the classes that were introduced in Trinity in September 2016, in their residences.
Union council also passed a motion calling for mandatory consent classes to be offered by the university.
Yet less than a year later, the classes have been dropped by the union and were hardly touched with a barge pole by the university. Current SU President Conor Viscardi recently confirmed that the university had offered no financial support for the classes. There were a limited number of trials in semester two last year and in semester one of this year. They were also solely run and promoted by the union.
The union has claimed that they are now exploring other avenues to introduce consent. Part of the problem they explain was due to lack of interest and that it’s the idea of “consent classes” in general that are alienating. Only people who are really interested will attend and perhaps those who should attend object to the idea that they have to be “taught not to rape”. However, this is merely an issue of branding.
The issue at hand is not what they were called or how they should have been run. If these were such important aspects, they should have been worked out with much more consideration earlier. A cursory analysis of “consent classes” could come to the same conclusion.
The real problem here is the university wide attitude towards consent. Last year these classes were announced as a reaction to the UCD 200 controversy, about an alleged group of up to 200 people sharing ‘revenge porn’ images of other people without their consent or knowledge. At the time there was a severe enough backlash in national media to prompt a university investigation and a promise to support consent classes.
Yet a very similar story came to light the year before. A potential candidate for SU president was revealed to have been a member of a group called “Girls I’d Shift if I was tipsy”. Along much the same premise, it also degraded women and reduced them solely to objects for the male gaze and gratification.
Both were reported in student media. Both caused much conversation on campus. Both were considered derogatory to women. Members of both groups were reportedly from UCD.
However, the university only saw fit to investigate one group, one instance. This also happened to be the instance that was widely reported in national and international media.
Now, almost a year since that controversy this university has dropped all pretence of supporting consent classes. They appeared to support the classes last year, when UCD was attracting much attention.
At the time, a statement by Deputy President and Registrar of UCD, Professor Mark Rogers following the investigation stated “Although this investigation is concluded, I am not so naïve as to believe that the university community is immune to this type of activity.”
While they recognise that this is a problem, the university simultaneously refuses to actually do anything to confront the issue. This was evidenced again by the criticism they received in the wake of the incident last December.
Compared to other universities, this attitude is disgraceful. In January 2016, Trinity College announced plans to roll out consent classes to incoming first years. These were planned and formulate not simply as an after thought to a recent controversy. These went ahead in September 2016.
Yet this university cannot seem to address sexual assault and rape unless there is focused national media attention on campus. Safety of its students seem for the most part to be an after thought.