Trigger Warning: Themes of Assault & Harassment.
UCD Student Voice – a group of students independent from the UCDSU and the UCD Administration – are preparing to release a new anonymous report system. Their aim is to gauge the levels of harassment happening in UCD and in turn seek to inform the college of activities happening in the school so that they can reform and make change in the university. The new report system has emerged on the back of instances of harassment, bullying and sexual harassment that have reportedly occurred throughout the college and societies; reports of which victims feel were ignored or mishandled by the groups they initially consulted for support.
One such example of this has been an ongoing situation since November 2019, when a society member was allegedly assaulted by another student while on a society trip. Complaints were waved off, put down as isolated instances unrelated to the society itself; despite the student reportedly responsible for the assault now holding a prominent position on the committee. Students who spoke up about what occurred on the trip and took issue with the member’s behaviour afterwards have claimed they were excluded from future society events and eventually the society itself. They also claim to have faced an extreme campaign of bullying and harassment aimed against them by certain committee members that began to impact everyday college life. The UCD Societies Council was made aware of what was happening but after months of back and forth that never went anywhere, students affected say they felt unheard and unsupported.
The harassment completely destroyed my university experience, hampered my ability to make friends, to partake in regular college life and added to my mental health problems in a way that has spread to and impacted almost every aspect of my life.
This particular case is now in the hands of the UCD Disciplinary Committee. The student affected is relieved by this course of action, but optimistic that UCD Student Voice might be the answer to the wider problem of harassment and bullying on campus.
I’m hopeful that as a grassroots student movement UCD Student Voice will empower the average student to feel able to report their experiences at college rather than stay silent. The true level of bullying and harassment occurring at UCD needs to be exposed. UCD Student Voice has the potential to do that.
Another student has spoken about her experience with harassment and stalking from late 2019 onwards. She alleges that it began with the other student waiting outside her lectures and tutorials in order to follow her around, later doing the same to her friends or anyone associated with her. The student would harass her at mutual society events, going so far as to follow her from the clubhouse bar one night.
The behavior continued when college moved online – repeatedly messaging her, despite being asked to leave her alone. She proceeded to block the student responsible and contacted UCDSU – but decided not to pursue the matter any further as the response she received felt ‘automated and uncaring.’ They simply sent a copy of the Dignity and Respect policy and recommended the oversubscribed UCD Counselling service. The policy at the time recommended she approach her harasser directly to deal with the problem, which the student felt was ‘inappropriate’ given the circumstances. She is skeptical of a new report system, saying:
The whole experience left me feeling incredibly vulnerable and I believe it did affect me psychologically. I’m scared about the eventual return to campus in case I run into them. I just want to know that this new system will actually do something other than simply forcing students to relive their experiences.
It is unclear at this time when UCD Student Voice plans to release this new report system as the ongoing pandemic and online college both provided stumbling blocks to the process. UCD Student Voice has been in contact with UCDSU and University administrators to ensure any possible new report system adheres to GDPR Guidelines.
Lucy Mackarel, Reporter