Originally published in Volume I, Issue 4 on 23rd November 1994 by Pat Leahy.
The Commerce and Economics Society (C&E) and the European Society both face complaints of sexual harassment following their postering campaigns during freshers’ week. Chery Harrison, a postgraduate student has written to both the Registrar, Dr Caroline Hussey, and the Dean of Women Students, Carmel O’Sullivan to lodge a formal complaint against the two societies. The matter is currently being considered by the Registrar’s office and has been passed on to Societies’ Officer, Paddy O’Flynn.
Mr O’Flynn has written to tell all auditors and captains explaining the matter will be discussed at the next meeting of the Students’ Forum Executive. The Forum is the umbrella body for all all College clubs and societies. In the meantime, the letter asks that all societies should be responsible in their postering policies, and have regard for the offence that certain types of posters may cause.
The controversy arose over the posters of Eva Herzegova (the “Wonderbra” girl) and the C&E poster advertising a debate on the motion “That Penis Envy is the Fire of Feminism”. The poster depicted a “feminist” waving a burning bra and a placard reading: “Bobbit you’re the Best”. Behind the “feminist” a line of dogs and a sign saying “Q Here” were visible.
When contacted by the University Observer, the complainant Ms Harrison said that she would expect a formal apology to the women of the College from the societies in question. In her letter to the Registrar she complained of “highly sexualised and objectified female images serving the purpose of increasing the membership of some society or other.” She now understood that there was no formal manner of dealing with societies, but thought that there should be some action taken. “I think there should be some disciplinary action taken against the societies, whether in curtailing their grant, or restricting their access to facilities”, Ms Harrison told the Observer.
C&E auditor Elaine Mulcahy said, “the poster in question was the milder of the two we had to choose from. I saw the humorous side of it. I can’t see why it should be in any way offensive.” “There’s a wrong attitude towards feminism in this college. I believe in equality, not in feminism. They’re ridiculous, crazy people. This is only nit-picking. Why didn’t this woman come to our meeting and complain there?”
The Dean of Women Students, Carmel O’Sullivan, said that she thought the posters went “a bit too far”. She confirmed that there had been a number of complaints to her office about posters this year and thought that this year had been “worse than previous years.”
“I don’t think that you can effectively police societies’ posters. I would hope that people can be responsible themselves and take other people’s sensibilities into account,” she said. At present the college has no formal policy on sexual harassment, although a draft proposal is to be considered by the Governing Body at its next meeting in December. However, the current Student Code for University College Dublin defines “Sexual Harassment of any student or member of staff of the College by any student or member of staff of the College” as a breach of discipline.