UCD President, Professor Andrew Deeks, has allegedly defended UCD’s handling of Dr. Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin’s sexual harassment case, as reported last night in The Irish Times. The University’s Governing Authority met on Thursday morning to discuss concerns over the case where Professor Deeks claimed that “the full facts had not been put into the public domain due to the sensitivities and confidentialities involved”.
A review of UCD’s Dignity and Respect policy is underway, Professor Deeks told the meeting. An independent Review Group was also called on to be established to address sexual harassment allegations and complaints by members of the authority. This is to allow students to feel more comfortable in reporting such incidents.
The Governing Authority guides the University’s strategic direction and has representatives from politics, UCD academics, non-academic staff and student representatives. Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu, sits on the Authority and announced via Twitter on the 5th of September when Professor Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin’s story was first published, that the issue of sexual harassment “will most definitely be raised”. In the same tweet, she commented that “if anyone ever comes to you saying they feel they are being harassed, you deal with it immediately,” and showed support for Professor Ní Shúilleabháin. Lord Mayor Chu was observed by sources to have made a “lengthy criticism” over UCD’s handling of the case.
The University is set to bring changes that mean it will “not tolerate acceptable behaviour”. The report by the working group established to review policies on dealing with sexual harassment claims has also recommended “dignity and respect training” for line managers and staff on campus. More information on UCD’s proposed “zero-tolerance policy” can be found here.
Dr. Marie Keenan, an Associate Professor in the UCD School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice, has come forward since reading Dr. Ní Shúilleabháin’s story to say that the University was alerted to on-going sexual harassment and violence faced by students in UCD but management did not heed the alerts. Dr. Keenan told The Irish Times that much of the concerns she raised in meetings were “dismissed”.
A gender equality plan is to be published later this month addressing on-going issues of sexual harassment on campus.
Mahnoor Choudhry – Deputy News Editor