363 allegations of harassment and assault were disclosed to the UCD Students’ Union by UCD students in 2018/19, the former UCDSU Welfare Officer Melissa Plunkett has revealed.
Speaking to the Irish Times Plunkett reported that in the one academic year she received allegations of “rape, groping, being forced to take part in a sexual act, sexual coercion, image-based abuse also sometimes known as ‘revenge porn’, receiving unsolicited images of a sexual nature and in some cases, physical violence or the threat of violence.” These instances occurred both on and off-campus.
Plunkett described contacting senior management twice in relation to two cases which she considered serious enough to involve university management, however, she was told that it was “hearsay and nothing could be done unless a student directly involved made a complaint themselves.” She continued by saying that university management was generally polite but that in one instance she was shouted at by a male senior official and was compared to a “dog with a bone”.
She continued by saying that university management was generally polite but that in one instance she was shouted at by a male senior official and was compared to a “dog with a bone”.
A former UCD student, who wished to remain anonymous, gave an account concerning her experience of harassment on campus and how disappointed she was with the university. She told the Irish Times that policies surrounding sexual harassment exist but that nothing is implemented. “To me, that says a lot about what the powers-that-be actually think when women report this behaviour and how a lack of consequences implies a lack of belief or understanding of the distress it causes to these women.”
Many former SU Officers contributed to the piece, all of whom expressed their concerns for student safety on campus. They explained that the pathways for students to report allegations of sexual misconduct are unclear and are dependent on “a lengthy formal complaints procedure”. They added that due to a lack of proper training hearing the allegations made by students had a serious effect on their own mental health, particularly since there was little else that they could do other than directing those affected to student counselling services.
This follows Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin’s account published in the Irish Times last month detailing how she had been subject to harassment from colleague Professor Hans-Benjamin Braun over a two-year-period after first reporting the issue to authorities at Belfield.
President Andrew Deeks declined to comment on the alarming number of allegations presented to Plunkett last year, but UCD provided a statement reiterating the pathways currently available to students in distress.
The College Tribune reached out to members of the SU to share their views on this issue but did not receive a comment at the time of publishing. Any comment received will be added to this article accordingly.
Emma Hanrahan – Assistant News Editor