Consent classes to begin at UCD following allegations of “revenge porn”

UCD Students’ Union confirmed yesterday that they have met with UCD President Andrew Deeks, and expect the University to begin consent classes from this September.The news comes after allegations made by The College Tribune last week that a group of 200 male UCD students were sharing pictures of women and rating them. The issue has since received national media coverage. The allegations came from the social app Yik-Yak, however currently the existence of this group remains unproven.The introduction of the consent classes has been a goal of the SU since they instigated their ‘Not Asking For It’ campaign in October. Last Tuesday, UCDSU President Marcus O’Halloran met with President Deeks to discuss the campaign.“He was very aware of what the campaign was about, and I put a proposal to him that we should follow suit, basically said to him that Trinity have gone down the route of introducing mandatory consent classes for people that live on Res in Trinity,” O’Halloran says. “The President was very quick to support us, and he said he doesn’t feel that it would be adequate enough to just provide it for students that are incoming and living on residence, that he feels that it should be obligatory for all. So it was really positive to hear that.”Both O’Halloran and SU Vice-President Hazel Beattie expressed discontent over the student reaction to the SU following the allegations. Beattie says: “In all of this, the one thing I did find upsetting was like students kind of ignored the fact that, you know, everyone was like ‘what is the Students’ Union doing?’ giving out about the Students’ Union. We have been running a consent campaign, and I would love to invite people to take part in it, and for those who have been vocal about us not doing anything, please do engage with us, and help us out, we can use all the help we can get.”O’Halloran echoes this sentiment. “The whole disclosure of the UCD 200, it was disappointing from our end because, once we received the criticism from everybody, up until then, we had been extremely proactive on the issue. And now it makes us look like we’re being reactive, whereas we had continuously been proactive, and even last Tuesday we had gotten permission from the President to continue the consent classes. And it’s just a pity that this had to happen and that we hadn’t it announced. If anything, it’s made us more focused than ever to make sure it goes ahead. It’s by far the most important thing we’ll do this year.”One of the main criticisms was the amount of time it took the SU to respond to the allegations. Almost 72 hours had elapsed by the time the SU reacted on social media. “Initially we had been doing our own internal investigation,” O’Halloran explains. “Nobody was able to confirm or deny, and through contact with our class reps, firstly, we didn’t pick up on the online story until I think it was Wednesday, and Thursday the investigations were ongoing, and obviously Friday morning was when everything blew up with the media. But yeah, perhaps we should have released something sooner, but it was a case that we were trying to do our own internal investigation first. It’s often, you know, when these things become public, information can be harder to get than what it was if you can go directly to people that you know first.”O’Halloran and Beattie explained that they intend to introduce their own consent workshops before the end of the academic year, but that the University will then take the initiative over and fund it. The SU are also launching a sexual consent survey, which has been in the works for a number of months. They originally intended to release it on 7th March, to coincide with International Women’s Day, however Beattie explains that the events of the last week may mean they release it earlier.On the importance and reach of these workshops, Beattie sees them as being incredibly important in changing a culture that doesn’t value consent. “I think a lot of people have attitudes towards consent that they don’t realise they have. These classes might make them more aware of those attitudes and change their understanding of what consent actually is, and help them to practice consent, and to get the conversation going amongst the student body.”At Students’ Union council yesterday evening, Catherine Galvin raised the topic of what has become known as ‘UCD200’ as a discussion for the council. Some of the issues raised included the necessity to focus on the victims of the alleged Facebook group, and the Dignity and Respect Code, which it was argued does not cater to this generation’s time at university. The issue of the reliability of the allegations was also raised, and a discussion took place concerning the fact that as of yet, the allegations remain unproven.The University are currently carrying out their own investigation into the existence of the group. Deputy Registrar, Mark Rogers, sent an email to all students on 8th February, stating their lines of enquiry in their investigation. He said: “I appeal to our community not to show any tolerance for abusive behaviour on social media. I ask that each one of you recognise your responsibility in this regard.”