WHEN FIRST-YEAR students arrive at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) this September, an extra class will feature on the usual schedule of society receptions and introductory meetings.
In the first move of its kind in Ireland, new undergraduates living in fresher accommodation at Trinity Hall in Rathmines will be expected to attend sexual consent workshops.
The classes will be modelled on the consent courses that are now compulsory for first-year students at the Oxford and Cambridge universities in the UK.
“We want to dispel the myths around sexual assault and start a conversation about what consent is,” said Shane Rice, the head of the JCR, the student committee that supports over 1,000 students at Trinity Hall.
Rice said the classes will be “promoted as mandatory” but that students will be able to leave once they begin.
The content of the workshops is yet to be decided, he said, but college authorities have given the committee permission to go ahead and plan the programme.
At a meeting on campus last night, a motion mandating TCD students’ union (SU) to help organise the workshops received near unanimous approval, as the University Times reported.
Kieran McNulty, the union representative who proposed the vote, said the successful introduction of classes at Trinity Hall could lead to a campus-wide course being implemented.
Louise Mulrennan, the SU’s gender equality officer, told TheJournal.ie that the move was “a short-term solution” to the issue of student sexual assault.
She and others on a committee trained by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre have been “researching the possibility of introducing college-wide online consent modules” and mandatory in-person workshops for the wider student body.
Other initiatives being worked on include “more support groups, further consent-specific training of counsellors and tutors as well as a consent video” due to be launched next month, she said.
In a survey last year, one in four female TCD students said they had had a non-consensual sexual experience.
The SU survey found that just over 25% of female students and 5% of male students had been subjected to an unwanted sexual experience.
Just under a third of female respondents had experienced unwanted physical contact while studying at TCD or in a TCD social setting, compared with 8% for men.
One in 13 respondents – 8% of women and 7% of men – reported having been stalked or subject to obsessive behaviour.