Consent classes dropped by UCD and the Students’ Union

CONSENT classes have been dropped by the UCD Students’ Union and the university. Plans were announced in February 2016 for the union to run classes in co-operation with the university.The UCDSU President at the time, Marcus O’Halloran, explained that the union would run the consent classes with the expectation that the university would take part in running them.UCDSU explained in a statement released to the Univeristy Observer: “The Students’ Union have spent €1,800 on trialling consent workshops during the last 12 months. Over this period, attendance has been generally poor… So far the Students’ Union has been the only stakeholder in UCD putting serious money into the issue of consent.”This follows confirmation by current UCDSU President Conor Viscardi at union council that the university has not funded any consent workshops.Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald petitioned UCD President Andrew Deeks, asking him to assist the union in “tackling the issue to a greater extent than demonstrated over the academic term of 15/16”. The SU response to the University Observer’s questions did not indicate whether this support has been received or not.The classes were announced following an investigation launched by UCD into allegations of group of UCD students sharing nude photos of fellow students without their permission. While the allegations were found to be false, UCDSU prioritised consent classes as part of a wider #NotAskingForIt campaign.Union welfare officer, Róisín O’Mara explained that the classes would not be going ahead “in the form that they were last semester…We’re looking at different ways to introduce the topic of consent.”O’Mara also noted that she was not aware of any plans within the university to hold similar classes.Classes were run in the second semester of last year and since the current sabbatical officers took office last summer, workshops have also taken place in the first semester of this academic year. Both were reportedly poorly attended.UCDSU noted in the same statement: “students who feel knowledgeable on the subject don’t attend because they don’t feel they need it and students who disagree that lack of education on consent is a problem issue in UCD/Ireland, don’t attend because they don’t support the workshops as a concept.”The SU report that no difference has been made to the attendance depending on the level of promotion, the only significant factor being that high levels of promotion attracted trolling.The Union is also teaming up with the National Women’s Council of Ireland for their pan European project to end sexual harassment and violence in third-level education. This project is being rolled out across campuses Europe wide, however the Union is unsure as to what the workshops will involve or if the University will support the initiative. Words by Niamh O'Regan and Roisin Guyett-Nicholson