It is believed a private Facebook groupchat with as many as 200 members is active among male students in UCD, in which members share and rate stories and pictures of girls they have slept with. The revelation is the most recent example of the continued prevalence of a harmful and derogatory ‘lad culture’ amongst the student body in UCD. The group is understood to be made up of predominately Agricultural Science students, in what is now the second controversy involving members of the course in a year. Last March a private Facebook page titled ‘Girls I’d shift if I was tipsy’ was exposed. The group was seen by most to be objectifying and degrading to women, it too was made up of Ag Science students; including the current SU President Marcus O’Halloran.
This latest controversy surrounding some elements of the male students studying Ag Science caused a heated debate on social media. The popular app Yik Yak bore witness to a vicious storm between those disgusted with the alleged groups behaviour and those defending the reputation of Ag Science students.
First year student, Sarah (who requested her surname be withheld) outlined her understanding of the group chat as operating “with around 200 Ag Science lads involved, all from different years, where they shared stories about girls they had sex with, shared the girls’ nudes, and then posted the girls’ facebook pages where they’d all rate them out of 10.”
Another online poster proportining to be a student involved in the group chat defended the members, ‘as an Ag lad who’s in most of the groups, I have to say we’re not all the same… Most of the guys on the group don’t even partake in what’s happening! I personally have only sent 3 photos & a story or 2.”
Those who attacked this insidious and potentially illegal behavior were subjected to a backlash from others studying Agricultural Science, who claimed they were being unfairly tarnished for the actions of a minority. One commenter stated “Yeah but were not all sickos like those lads. Yeah it is a big number but at the end of the day like how unfair is it to say that a CAO choice somehow defines you like that”. The actions of the group are an example of behavior that is by no means exclusive or exhaustive or Ag Science students, as another poster pointed out. “Trying to brand all the ags with a bad name when they’re really the same as every other single lads group chat…”
Sarah’s own criticism of the group chat’s actions were met with responses such as “Fuck off you pleb” and “you can go fuck yourself you presumptuous bitch”. The anonymity of platforms like Yik Yak unfortunately enables this unchecked degree of such online abuse.
Sarah spoke out against this rush to defend Ag Science student’s reputation ahead of concerns for the victimised girls privacy and welfare. “What’s even worse about this whole thing though is how people are more concerned about how it was ‘not all Ags’ and saving their own reputations above the girls who were humiliated and shamed by the people who were involved.” She also believed the perceived growth of lad culture in UCD is something “toxic”. She stated, “This controversy along with the last one are two huge examples of the damage it’s capable of. Many people just brush it off as ‘lads being lads’ as well, when these are legal adults we’re talking about who should be held accountable for their bad behaviour just like anyone else.”
Marcus O’Halloran came out strongly last spring after revelations of his own participation in the group ‘Girls I’d shift if I was tipsy’ and claimed that he would tackle lad culture in UCD as SU President. When asked if he had any prior knowledge of this current controversial group existing he stated, “I have no knowledge of their existence. If I had any evidence, I would forward it to the relevant college authorities … and An Garda Síochána if such reports and sources implicated UCD students in ‘revenge porn’”.
O’Halloran alongside Union Vice President Hazel Beattie have tried to champion a campus wide conversation and campaign addressing sexual consent. “Our largest campaign this year over at UCD Students’ Union is on sexual consent – the #NotAskingForIt campaign. #NotAskingForIt is about combating any sense of male entitlement to the female body and combating the idea that you can assume consent.” He also committed to continue the effort into the coming semester, “we’re further looking to open focus groups on sexual consent in conjunction with researchers from Rape Crisis Network Ireland and NUIG provide an anonymous platform to students whereby they’ll be able to discuss stories where consent was assumed rather than asked. We’re also looking to lobby university for increased resources for support services for survivors of sexual consent on the basis of data collected from a student sample survey”.
The effectiveness of their campaign however to reach those objectifying and degrading women is brought into question by this latest controversy. Consent workshops or campaigns can often be constituted by those who are already informed and understanding of issues like consent, and can alienate the ‘lads’ they are targeted at. It remains to be seen how well O’Halloran and the SU will be in properly tackling ‘lad culture’ in UCD, as controversies like this latest chat group highlight how there is much work to be done.
The College Tribune has been unable to gain access into the Facebook messenger chat in question, but would strongly recommend those involved consider the implications, and the serious illegality of sharing explicit images of a person without their consent.
- Jack Power, Politics & Innovation Editor