UCC Feminist Society has launched a petition to introduce mandatory consent classes for all students attending the university.
If the petition is successful, UCC will be following in the footsteps of other Irish universities, including Trinity College Dublin and Queen’s University Belfast. A spokesperson from FemSoc explained that they “believe these classes are necessary to combat the alarming rate of sexual assault and harassment prevalent in university campuses, and in Ireland in general.”
Unfortunately, across Irish campuses there have been widespread allegations of sexual harassment & assault. FemSoc argues that this is partly due to a lack of sexual education in Irish schools, stating that the system is “dramatically insufficient and outdated.” In their opinion, improved education and awareness regarding consent would create a safer, happier campus but would also mean “a young Irish population that has a safer, healthier attitude towards sex.”
With regards to funding for the classes, FemSoc hopes to work in conjunction with UCC Students’ Union and the Student Experience Office. The project will consist of classes taught by ‘consent ambassadors’, consisting of students and staff specially trained in the area. The society explained that the use of these ambassadors will minimise the cost.
When asked about ensuring students attend the classes, the society explained that “central to (the) proposal is that these classes be mandatory for all incoming first years, with attendance taken and regulated as a compulsory part of orientation. In Trinity Halls this class is mandatory and held with the fire safety introduction.”
Consent classes have been in operation at Trinity since 2016, and a survey of those students who attended the classes showed positive results – 87% of attendees believed the classes should be taught at every orientation, and 87.4% stated they had learned valuable information at the event.
According to a survey carried out in 2015, one in seven students attending UCC had been raped or experienced a sexual assault, with around one third of respondents saying that they had experienced “minor sexual assaults.” Of the 333 students surveyed, 82% said that they would not know how to report a case of sexual assault to university authorities.
In response to this survey, a representative from FemSoc stated that it highlights the “now undeniable prevalence of sexual assault and harassment” that is occurring among UCC students. Adding that it is a concern that students don’t know how to, or even if they can, report a case of assault, the society hopes the university will hear their plea for systems to be put in place to educate and protect the UCC student community.
After surpassing their initial goal of 500 signatures within 24 hours, FemSoc believes the students of UCC agree with their pleas; “as students and young people we have a duty to protect each other, our friends, and ourselves, and a right to be given the tools to carry out that duty”, added the representative.
A new goal of 2,500 signatures has been set on the online petition platform change.org, which can be found here. At the time of writing, the petition had been signed by 2,438 supporters.