All first year students in University College Dublin (UCD) must complete an online bystander intervention module as part of their orientation this September. Students will not be awarded academic credit upon successful completion of the module.

The introduction of the Bystander Education programme forms part of a series of initiatives established in UCD to deal with the issue of sexual harassment and violence, both on campus and in the wider community.

The UCD Bystander Education programme was developed by Dr Aideen Quilty, Director of Gender Studies in UCD, at the request of the UCD Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Third Level Education Group (UCD ESHTE). Following the successful launch of a similar programme in University College Cork (UCC), the programme was adapted to tailor to the needs of students UCD. The programme, which was piloted on over 200 students in the last academic year, was met with “overwhelming[ly] positive” feedback.

The programme originally comprised of a combination of face-to-face and online material over three sessions. However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the programme has been restructured – instead, it will be delivered “completely online, embedded with a broader module designed to welcome students to UCD” according to Dr Jason Last, UCD Dean of Students.

In a statement to the College Tribune, Dr Last illustrated the various components of the Bystander Education module. The module will not only deal with matters aligned to consent; the programme will synchronously “help students to consider their role … as a member of society in ensuring a positive working, learning and living environment”. He maintained that the programme “is as much about ‘doing the right thing’ as it is about tackling sexual violence and harassment”.

Dr Last further detailed the development of the programme: “Our approach formed part of a presented response to Minister Harris in a recent meeting with Dublin Castle set up specifically to consider how the third level education sector can best work together to impact on what the Minister referred to as an epidemic”.

Additionally, as part of their orientation, every first year will be required to watch the “Cup of Tea” consent video. Dr Last confirmed that there will be further campaigns and consent workshops during the year.

This year sees the first time that all incoming students will be given access to an online orientation learning package. Freshers in the Autumn Trimester will also have the option to participate in Peer Mentor activities remotely, by means of online welcomes and virtual tours, should they be unable to physically attend the Belfield campus due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“The UCD anonymous reporting tool will also continue to be available and we will be launching new policies later in the year with regard to dignity, respect, and sexual misconduct”, Last concluded.

Nessa Collins – Assistant News Editor