UCD’s Commitment to ending Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment

UCD is committed to the promotion of a culture, for work and study, which upholds the dignity and respect of the individual and which supports their right to study and/or work in an environment which is free from all forms of discrimination. This is supported in the University strategy “Rising to the Future 2020-2024” through its strategic objectives to “provide an inclusive educational experience” and to “attract, retain and develop and excellent and diverse cohort of students, faculty and staff”. Promoting a culture of dignity and respect and wellbeing is also a strategic objective of the UCD Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Strategy

UCD is actively promoting a culture of zero tolerance to sexual violence and sexual harassment for all members of our University community and this webpage provides information on the actions that have been undertaken and are ongoing to achieve this. 

Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Third Level Education (ESHTE)

UCD is one of the founding members of the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) National Advisory Committee (NAC) relating to ending sexual violence and harassment in third level education (ESHTE). This came about through the creation of a position paper which was brought to, and endorsed by, the University Management Team on 14th March 2017 following some collaborative conversations with both the UCD Students’ Union and representatives of the NWCI. This was an evidenced based proposal which asked that the University commit to ESHTE and put in place structures for enhancing support, consolidating disclosure and information platforms and engage with the academic community to bring focussed research to the implementation and delivery phases of any associated initiatives. 

In the intervening time period, UCD has put in place a UCD ESHTE group consisting of staff, faculty and students, which has led to a coordinated approach to the consideration of sexual assault and harassment. In particular, every undergraduate student of the University now engages with the ‘Cup of Tea’ consent video during their programme orientation in the week before the commencement of the academic year. This is through the sabbatical officers of the UCD Students’ Union, with the support of the UCD ESHTE group and colleagues across the institution. In addition, the UCD ESHTE group has brought five initiatives to the University that are expected to have wide and/or deep impact on fostering a culture of responsibility, support and is clear in its condemnation of unwanted and unacceptable behaviours. 

It Stops Now Campaign

UCD hosted the filming of the national It Stops Now video, including the use of our facilities for the positioning of a large mural. The team also created a large portable billboard which was moved around the campus to ensure high visibility. 

Consent Workshops 

UCD ESHTE group identified collectively a number of consent workshop initiatives that dovetail with the other ESHTE initiatives through the academic calendar. For example, the first workshop in the most recent academic year took place in association with UCD Consent and the LGBTQ+ Society, and was run by Consent Matters. We have also since hosted NUIG Smart Consent.

Bystander Programme Evaluation

UCD has investigated the benefits of bystander training and approved a programme that was completed as a pilot in the last academic year. This was greatly assisted by the generosity of UCC and Dr Louise Crowley, as the content is inspired by the work she has led in bystander training both at UCC, and at the National Advisory Committee of ESHTE. Notwithstanding this assistance, a significant amount of additional work has taken place to build a bespoke programme for UCD, led by Dr Aideen Quilty. A subgroup of UMT reviewed the findings of the pilot and approved the expansion of the bystander programme to all incoming students in the coming academic year, albeit adjusted to take into account COVID.  

UCD Report and Support tool

UCD is keenly aware that incidents of sexual violence and harassment are under-reported. While the University has a formal complaint process, up until recently, there was no mechanism for those experiencing such incidents to notify the University anonymously. 

An anonymous Report and Support tool was developed in the first trimester of the last academic year and was launched to employees and students in January/February 2020. At the formal launch in February, UCD welcomed the CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre who has supported the development of such tools. The launch also heard from UCD Student Welfare Officer, the UCD Dean of Students, Bystander Education Programme lead, the Registrar and the Vice-President for EDI. 

The objectives of the establishment of the tool were to: 

  • enable the University to direct those reporting incidents to appropriate support services
  • raise awareness as to the range of informal options for resolution, if appropriate, and the formal complaint procedure 
  • monitor and report on the number and categories of incidents bullying, harassment and sexual harassment to help the University better understand its culture in relation to dignity and respect issues
  • raise the profile of the issues faced by all members of the University community 
  • pilot on behalf of other Irish institutions a tool that has only been previously established in different legal jurisdictions. 

Aligned to a culture of zero tolerance to issues of sexual violence, the data arising from the anonymous reporting tool will be used at College and University level to help raise awareness and promote the development of local initiatives. Also, as UCD is the first Irish University to develop such a tool, we are working with other groups nationally to share best practice and support the wider ambition to develop equivalent versions across the Higher Education Sector. The initiative has been in part supported by funding from the HEA.

Training of key employees and students in sexual assault disclosure 

This has been enabled over the last three years through the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. Training has also been tailored for the third level environment. Those identified for training include but are not limited to student advisers, students’ union officers, estate services, dignity and respect contact persons and senior residential assistants. In addition, our counselling team are also trained to support students facing such trauma. 

Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct

UCD revised its Dignity and Respect policy in December 2017 which set out the supports available for employees and students experiencing issues of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment and also streamlined the process for making a formal complaint. The University is now developing a Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct policy in response to developments at national level and following feedback from stakeholders in UCD. Following the development of this policy, an ongoing awareness raising campaign will take place to promote the policy as well as specific training for key supports that are in place to support people experiencing issues of this nature.