A UCD Professor quit a gender equality group last year after she saw “no evidence of any commitment to take the necessary steps” to address sexual harassment on campus.

UCD Professor of Art-History, Kathleen James-Chakraborty quit UCD’s Gender Equality Action Group in 2019. Upon her resignation from the action group, James-Chakraborty explained to UCD President Andrew Deeks that “There will be no meaningful commitment to gender equality until policies are enforced, and those who violate them or evade enforcing them face serious consequences.”

In her resignation email, James-Chakraborty stated”If senior male faculty can assume that there is no risk to their careers when they engage in physical and oral harassment, no student they teach is receiving an excellent education and no staff member with whom they work is getting their legal right to a workplace free of such discrimination and harassment.”

She continued to explain that she believes that laws regarding maternity leave in Ireland have been broken “regularly” by UCD. James-Chakraborty said, “There is every reason to believe women are being discriminated against in hiring processes”.

Speaking to The Irish Times, James-Chakraborty said that her lack of reply from President Deeks at the time gave her “the strong impression that he was content with the status quo”.

After a UCD lecturer, Dr Ní Shúilleabháin’s told of her harassment experience, Andrew Deeks issued a public statement in the Sunday Independent apologising on behalf of UCD. Dr Ní Shúilleabháin later took to Twitter to reveal her “surprise” at this statement, saying she had never previously received “one or any communication from him on this matter.” President Deeks subsequently contacted Dr Ní Shúilleabháin with a personal apology.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris subsequently announced his appointment of the CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre Noeline Blackwell to the Governing Authority of UCD. Harris said the appointment was a signal of his intention to tackle issues such as harassment and to promote gender equality in education.

The UCD Gender Equality Action Group is made up of UCD staff such as UCD’s Deputy President and Registrar Dr. Jason Last, alongside a representative from each school in UCD and from the Students’ Union. Also on the Action Group is Professor Dolores Cahill who faced criticism earlier this summer for a number of claims she made regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Hugh Dooley – News Editor

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