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Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin says UCD policies on harassment need to be victim-centred

Dr Ní Shúilleabháin revealed last weekend that she had been subjected to regular harassment by a professor at UCD.

Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin
Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin
Image: RollingNews.ie

BROADCASTER AND ACADEMIC Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin has said harassment policies and procedures in universities should be victim-centred and that third-level institutions need to engage with independent groups supporting women. 

In The Irish Times on Saturday, Dr Ní Shúilleabháin revealed that she had been subjected to regular harassment by a professor at the university, Hans-Benjamin Braun, over a two-year period after she had first reported the issue to the authorities in Belfield.

Ní Shúilleabháin stated that Braun had regularly shown up in her office at UCD, asked her out on dates, and made persistent phone calls.

Ní Shúilleabháin reported the situation to gardaí and Braun (58), who worked in UCD until last year, was issued with a court order in late 2019 barring him from contacting her for five years.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, Dr Ní Shúilleabháin said that although it was positive that UCD was now reviewing its policy following the revelations, she said she hoped “it would be victim-centred and that it will really look after the people who are coming forward with experience of harassment on campus.”

Ní Shúilleabháin also confirmed that she first read about UCD’s apology to her in a Sunday newspaper.

“I was just worried that that might be indicative of the university response because if writing something on a piece of paper is the action it’s not going to be enough,” she said this morning. 

Ní Shúilleabháin later confirmed she had received a written apology from UCD President Andrew Deeks. 

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Speaking more broadly, Ní Shúilleabháin called on third-level institutions to engage with groups working with women when reviewing and developing policy around assault and harassment. 

“You can have bright shiny new policies and procedures but unless everyone knows what they are and unless the cultures are changed to help people, firstly, disclose what has happened to them so that they can get support and then maybe complain if they wish to… I think that culture and those structures need to be really, really robust and really, really clear.”

Ní Shúilleabháin also said universities need to engage with groups like the National Women’s Council and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre when reviewing policy.

“I know if I was 17 or 18 and something like this was happening to me I’d probably like to talk to somebody who is independent of the university about it rather than somebody who may have loyalties to the institution,” she said. 

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