University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU) passed a motion to enforce mandatory Consent and Bystander Intervention training for all students and staff. The motion passed with an over 60-vote majority in the UCDSU Council Meeting on Monday, 1st of February.
The motion was brought forward by SU Welfare Officer, Ruairi Power, who acknowledged the presence of bystander intervention and consent training held by Dr Aideen Quilty as part of the Dignity and Respect policy, however, stated that this is currently not mandatory, but is ‘available to all incoming first years’.
The motion further stated that: “easy access to robust and objective consent and bystander education is a bare minimum requirement to create a culture of consent in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)”. The SU also stated that it should be important that children be introduced to similar education around consent and objective sexual education from primary and post-primary levels.
The mandate that was approved by council not only called for the lobbying to force UCD to make this education mandatory for all staff and students, but also to calls on UCD management to ‘proactively root out retaliation against those who raise concerns or lodge formal complaints’.
“We felt quite strongly… [that] every student should partake in this,” Power said when speaking for the motion in Council. “It should not be an optional programme just for people who are interested in it; in fact, it is the people who aren’t interested in it probably need to take it most.”
When asked by members of Council about protecting students that have experienced abuse or assault that don’t want to disclose their previous abuse, Power said that there would be reasonable exceptions provided for anyone who didn’t want to partake in the training. “They would not have to disclose the nature of any previous instances,” Power said in Council.
Power said that the intention is for these mandatory sessions take place during orientation, at the start of the year. “We would also like to see some specific training put in place for people who are in leadership positions, such as those who would have to deal with complaints, they probably should be looking at disclosure training as well,” Power said, “and looking at how things should be passed on.”
Power did state that “no student should have a role in processing or dealing with any of these cases, it is to make sure that they are able to deal with a disclosure that comes on to them and pass them on to the appropriate referral services”.
Míde Nic Fhionnlaoich, the SU Law College Officer, who seconded the motion, added, “while there has been a lot of good and worthwhile work put in on the policies recently, that is not worth anything if people don’t know, when they need to intervene, what to do. It can be very difficult to know what to do in situations like that, and it is important that everyone is equipped with the knowledge of, ‘what now?’,” Nic Fhionnlaoich said.
Stephen Kisbey-Green – Co-Editor