Professor Padraig Cunningham has apologised on behalf of the School of Computer Science for an email that was forwarded to all Stage three Computer Science students from a UCD Medical Student searching for an app developer for his app ‘Consent’.
In the email, the 4th year Medicine student describes how the app “allows for others to quickly verify their consent prior to sexual activities. This allows for others to electronically sign/verify pre-made contract before engaging in sex, to ensure consent is recorded.”
The student goes on to detail his motivations for creating the app, “With your help we can fights the ever growing fear for men to be sued post intercourse due to consent not being recorded/denied/retracted the life-destroying legal ramifications that follow – as well as allowing for a clear opportunity if the other, for instance, female, does not wish to continue in the act – and leaves out the lack of communication which is responsible for the destruction of thousands of lives every year.”
The Tribune contacted the student in question with a number of queries, including whether the app concept has safeguards to allow for people who stop consenting during sex or to prevent potential issues such as a different person taking someone’s phone and recording their consent for them. We also asked if this student believes that men being sued over a lack of consent is the most pressing issue surrounding consent, which he had described as leading to “the destruction of thousands of lives every year.”
The student did not specifically answer any of our queries but did attempt to clarify his email, “We are on a mission, to help others, both parties without the compromise of each other. I study medicine for the same reason I wished for this app, to improve lives and help people. I understand there are concerns about this app, out of the 26 responses we got, 24 positive, 2 misinterpreted it. Perhaps my wording was very flawed and misleading on the primary email. But rest assured, the very instant I feel this app would be doing harm, I will be the first to terminate it. This app would not change the legal rights of an individual, only establishing/recording onset of consent. Consent is not a permanent life long agreement – but rather till the notification to void such consent. Hence, upon illustrating the act to stop, the consent would be broken.”
A number of students raised concerns over the circulation of the email, wondering if the use of the computer science mailing lists indicated that the college was endorsing the app. Professor Padraig Cunningham followed this email with an apology email on behalf of the school, writing that the email “was not reviewed and approved by the UCD School of Computer Science before it was forwarded to our students” and “the School emailing lists should not have been used to circulate this email. It was issued in error. Please disregard the email.” Furthermore, he promised to improve the college’s review process of forwarded emails and apologised to all who received it for the offence it caused.
By Muireann O’Shea – CoEditor