A “zero tolerance” policy has been proposed by UCD in order to deal with cases of sexual harassment against students and staff, as The Irish Times reported. The working group on behalf of UCD has also proposed a new concept of disclosure among 4 documents that are currently being worked on. The working group was established to revise the policies currently in place from Autumn 2019.

The new concept of disclosure proposed by the working group will apply to those unsure of making formal complaints. It will also allow UCD to be able to investigate without a formal complaint and give the University an option to clarify informal and formal internal complaints to Garda Síochána.

The University has stated that they will consult with both UCD employees and students on the draft documents which are on the topics of Dignity and Respect – Bullying and Harassment Policy and Procedures, Dignity and Respect – Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures. UCD has stated that when the review is finished that the policies and procedures will be published with the implementation of recommendations from students and staff.

UCDSU President, Conor Anderson,  commented on the policy to The College Tribune: “I think this is a good start, but the problem at UCD has not been a lack of policy structures that purport to provide avenues of redress when students or staff are victimized. UCD suffers from a culture of retaliation when it comes to fighting back against abuses of power, whether that means a Ph.D. student being stymied by a supervisor or more serious cases of harassment, as seen in the case of Dr. Ní Shúilleabháin. UCD needs to be more proactive about enforcing the policies that it already has and ensure that there is protection and supports in place for anyone who makes a complaint.”

The announcement of the new policy comes after news broke of the 2-year period of harassment by UCD Professor Hans Benjamin-Braun against Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháinn between May 2015 and 2017. Dr Ní Shúilleabháinn, a lecturer and Assistant Professor for the School of Mathematics and Statistics in UCD, said that she felt dissuaded from making a formal complaint to UCD. Dr Ní Shúilleabháinn said on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, that she believes harassment policies and procedures should be victim-centred in third-level institutions and although it is positive that UCD is reviewing its policy, she hopes that an emphasis will be put on supporting those who come forward with the experience of harassment.

Angelina Pierce – Reporter