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Underpinning consent: IWD2022

NCI committee members celebrate receipt of an Athena Swan Bronze Award

Pictured celebrating the presentation to National College of Ireland of an Athena Swan Bronze Award for gender equity: Dr Cristina Hava-Muntean, interim Vice Dean of the School of Computing; Mary Connelly, Director of HR; Gina Quin, President; Deirdre McCarthy, Manager EDI; Professor Jimmy Hill, Vice President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion; Karen Jones, Registrar; Dr Colette Darcy, Dean of the School of Business. Photo by Sasko Lazarov for Photocall Ireland.

On International Women's Day, National College of Ireland launches its Consent Framework.

Deirdre McCarthy, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at National College of Ireland says:

“Sexual harassment and violence is an everyday issue. Beyond statistics, just this year and right here in Ireland, if you look at the hashtag #SheWasGoingForaRun in response to the murder of Ashling Murphy, too many women have a story to tell of a random experience on the street, an experience at college or at work, or far too commonly, in their own homes. Predominantly, the perpetrators of sexual harassment and violence are men. Men also experience sexual harassment and violence and may be even more reluctant to report it than women are, because of societal gender norms. The media covers sexual assault and violence when it is news, but quickly moves to the next story.

“As with #MeToo and recent vigils, there is a grassroots movement, largely woman-led, to end sexual violence. To make a real difference, we need to channel the stories people are sharing into responsive policies that support those who have been subjected to sexual harassment or violence and give them a safe place to be heard, as well as a clear path to dealing appropriately with the perpetrator. That way the energy of a movement, the anger in response to a news story, can be harnessed for practicable, ongoing good.”

Karen Jones, Registrar of National College of Ireland says:

“A College is both a workplace and a place of learning. NCI has a duty of care to both staff and students. We underpin this primarily through our Dignity and Work and Student Bullying and Harassment policies, however in 2018, we recognised that we needed to specifically address the issue of consent. This work was underway when in 2019, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris, called on HEIs to publish their Consent Frameworks. We took part in the 2021 national staff and student surveys on sexual violence and sexual harassment and fed our learnings from that into our existing work to create a living document, a policy that will respond as needed, whether that is as our understanding of consent grows, or as the college community grows.

“On this subject, the college executive and NCI Students Union are aligned. Jennifer Treadwell, the Vice President of NCISU, is part of the Consent Framework Working Group; the SU provides consent education for students, and the College provides education to staff. NCI and NCISU work together to ensure there are trained Designated Contact People available to both staff and students to act as a very approachable first point of contact for anyone in the College who needs to report sexual harassment or violence.

“By making this a living policy, transparent and available to all, and putting a human face on it, through the commitment of colleagues and fellow students in being visibly present for anyone who needs practical support, we are activating the power of consent to end sexual harassment and violence.

“In February this year, the #MeToo Bill was approved by the United States Congress, putting in place legislation that ensures anyone who is sexually harassed at work can seek legal redress. This is an example of the possible impact when shared experience and frustration are focused on changing policy and procedure. By bringing the issue of consent into everyday consideration, it should be possible not just to swiftly respond when people need support, but to create an environment that inhibits sexual harassment and violence.”

National College of Ireland’s Consent Framework is available to view here, launched International Women's Day, March 8th, 2022.