During a presentation to UCD’s Governing Authority in October, university officials revealed new figures demonstrating a dramatic increase in complaints. These figures show that incidents of harassment and sexual misconduct have been largely underreported at UCD.

Following the rollout of an anonymous reporting tool ‘Report + Support’ in February 2020, complaints students and staff surged. While just 27 formal complaints were received by the university over the past three years, in the three months following the introduction of the anonymous reporting tool, 50 complaints were made.

Of these complaints, 47% were of bullying, 32% were of sexual harassment and 22% were of other forms of harassment. Of those who reported their own experiences, 69% of employees and 70% of students were female.

According to Tristan Aitken, Director of Human Resources, these statistics indicate “a larger number of harassment incidents […] are not formally reported.” A change in culture has also been identified as a “critical component” that will influence UCD’s progress in this area. 

“a larger number of harassment incidents[…] are not formally reported”

Tristan Aitken, Director of Human Resources, UCD

In contrast, a former Students’ Union Officer reported that UCDSU received 363 allegations of harassment and assault during the 2018/19 academic year. This significantly higher figure reflects an apparent lack of confidence by students in the university’s formal complaints system. 

2,000 students have participated in a newly introduced ‘Bystander Intervention Programme’, which provides mandatory training to all new UCD students. The online module encourages students to consider their role as bystanders to harassment and promote “doing the right thing”. 

Last June, a national survey found that almost one in three women and non-binary students reported being raped during their college years. 

Following a university-wide review of UCD’s Dignity and Respect Policy, tougher rules around harassment are expected to come into effect from February of this year.

This follows Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin’s account published in the Irish Times last year detailing how she had been subject to harassment from colleague Professor Hans-Benjamin Braun over a two-year-period after first reporting the issue to authorities at Belfield.

For anyone affected by anything in this article, the following centres and organisations are available for support:
Dublin Rape Crisis Center can be reached here and at 1800 77 8888
UCD Students’ Union Welfare Officer can be found here.
UCD 24/7 Emergency Line: 01 716 7999
Pieta House – CALL FREE on 1800 247 247 / TEXT HELP to 51444

Conor Capplis – Senior Reporter