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Man fined for exposure among 24 people reported for sexual assault at Irish colleges in six years

There were no reports of sexual assault by students in half of Irish colleges between 2012 and 2018.

Dundalk Institute of Technology, where a student was expelled for sexual harassment
Dundalk Institute of Technology, where a student was expelled for sexual harassment
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THERE WERE 24 reports of sexual assault involving students at third level institutions in Ireland over a six-year period, figures obtained by TheJournal.ie reveal.

The figures show that just one third level institution – the University of Limerick – had an average of at least one report of sexual assault involving students per year between 2012/13 and 2017/18.

There were no reports made against students at all in 12 institutions during the six academic years for which figures were available, while there was just a single allegation in a further four colleges.

Three more universities – Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, and University College Cork – refused to supply figures or did not have a database of crimes.

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre CEO Noeline Blackwell told TheJournal.ie that the figures were “extraordinarily low”.

“Given the number of young people who contact us every year, I find it incredible that there were 24 allegations of sexual assaults in 24 colleges over six years,” she said.

“What that says to me, is that there are no adequate systems in place for reporting sexual assaults in colleges, and for having the colleges deal with the issue.”

As part of an audit of allegations of sexual assault on Irish campuses, TheJournal.ie asked each university and college how many allegations of sexual assault were made against students to the university in each academic year from 2012/13 to 2017/18.

The request also asked how the third-level institutions dealt with each allegation of sexual assault, and whether any students were disciplined.

Trinity College, Dublin

Trinity College refused a request for information, with a decision-maker saying that to release the information would “seriously impair the Junior Dean” in carrying out their role in the disciplinary process.

“All investigations and actions taken by the Office of the Junior Dean in relation to
student discipline are done with due regard to both the integrity of the College and the
pastoral care of the student,” a spokeswoman added.

University College, Dublin

University College Dublin also refused a request for information, saying it did not hold any records on sexual assaults.

“Sexual assault is a criminal matter, investigated by An Garda Síochána, and as such, UCD do not hold any of the records that you have requested,” the decision-maker said.

Dublin City University

Dublin City University revealed that three allegations of sexual assault were made by students over the six-year period.

However, the university was unable to provide details on the outcome of the disciplinary process, although it said the three assaults were reported to gardaí in accordance with its ‘Policy to Promote Respect and to Protect Dignity’.

NUI Maynooth

A decision-maker for NUI Maynooth revealed that there were three allegations of sexual harassment to the university since 2010.

However, the university would not specify whether these allegations involved staff or students.

“Due to the small numbers in question the university would be in breach of data protection legislation to disclose further information about the allegations,” a spokeswoman said.

NUI Galway

NUI Galway reported one allegation of sexual assault against a student over the six-year period.

However, it refused to release further information about this, as to access the record would involve the disclosure of personal information.

The decision-maker added that no disciplinary action was taken against the student involved, and outlined possible sanctions against students in its code of conduct.

University College Cork

UCC also revealed that it had no database of crimes against students, and therefore refused the request for information.

However, a spokesman said that the university encouraged students to report any instances of sexual assault via a number of channels, including academic departments, the student experience office, and the students’ union.

“In such instances, the university’s role is primarily to provide the support to the victim of the alleged crime and direct them to report the incident to gardaí as a criminal matter,” the spokesman said.

University of Limerick

Seven complaints of sexual assault were made against students at the University of Limerick over the six-year period – more than any other college or university in Ireland.

However, the university was unable to provide details of disciplinary action taken, as this would potentially identify the students involved.

A spokesman confirmed that of the seven complaints that were initially made, three continued through the university’s discipline process, where appropriate sanctions were imposed.

Mary Immaculate College

There were no reports of sexual assault against students at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick between 2012/13 and 2017/18.

National College of Art and Design

One allegation of sexual assault was made against a student at NCAD during the six-year period.

A spokesman for the college said the matter was investigated, and that there was a disciplinary hearing.

The student was suspended for a minimum of one year, and was told they would be allowed to return to study at the college following engagement with a specialist counselling service.

Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

One allegation of sexual assault was made against a student at RCSI.

A spokesman for the college confirmed that appropriate disciplinary action was taken, but did not give more information on this as it was felt that releasing details did not serve the public interest.

Dublin Institute of Technology

One complaint against a DIT student was made over the six academic years, specifically during 2013.

A spokeswoman confirmed that disciplinary action was taken against the student, but details of this were not disclosed as the decision-maker felt that doing so would involve the disclosure of personal information.

Athlone Institute of Technology

There were no complaints against AIT students during the six-year period.

Cork Institute of Technology

CIT confirmed that there were two complaints against one student at the college between 2012/13 and 2017/18.

However, a spokesman said the allegation was not an on-campus incident, and no details of any disciplinary action against the student were released.

Dundalk Institute of Technology

Two students at Dundalk Institute of Technology were disciplined for sexual assault over the six-year period.

In one instance, a Business and Management student at the college was expelled for “sexual harassment and disorderly conduct”, a decision that was upheld by the college’s academic council following an appeal by the student.

In another instance, a Sustainable Agriculture student was fined €125 after exposing himself to students.

Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology

There were no complaints against GMIT students during the six-year period.

Institute of Art Design and Technology

There were no allegations of sexual assault made against IADT students during the six-year period.

Institute of Technology Blanchardstown

There were no allegations of sexual assault made against IT Blanchardstown students between 2012/13 and 2017/18.

Institute of Technology Carlow

There were no allegations of sexual assault made against IT Carlow students during the six years.

Institute of Technology Sligo

Two allegations of sexual assault were made against students at IT Sligo, one in 2012 and one in 2015.

However, a spokeswoman said that while investigations into both incidents were carried out by gardaí, neither of the students involved were disciplined, as the allegations were not substantiated sufficiently.

Institute of Technology Tallaght

There were no allegations of sexual assault made against students at IT Tallaght over the six-year period.

Institute of Technology Tralee

There were no allegations of sexual assault against IT Tralee students from 2012/13 to 2017/18.

Institute of Technology Letterkenny

There were no allegations of sexual assault against students at IT Letterkenny over the six years.

Limerick Institute of Technology

There were no allegations of sexual assault against students at LIT from 2012/13 to 2017/18.

Waterford Institute of Technology

One allegation of sexual assault was made against students at WIT in 2015/16, and disciplinary action was taken.

However, no details of how the student was disciplined was given.

‘No adequate systems’

Noeline Blackwell of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said the small figures raised questions about how colleges were tackling sexual assault.

Latest figures from the DRCC show that almost 2,000 young people – aged between 18 and 23 – contacted the service for help during 2017, the most recent year for which figures are available.

“There are no adequate systems in place for reporting sexual assaults, and for having the colleges deal with it,” Blackwell said.

We would regularly get students contacting us who don’t want to go back to a classroom, where the person who committed the assault on them is in the class.

Research published last year by NUI Galway also revealed that  57% of first years said they’d received some sort of unwanted sexual attention since beginning college.

Over half of women involved in the study also reported unwelcome comments about their bodies or sexual activities by their third year in college.

Blackwell believes that systems are lacking when it comes to reporting sexual assault in Irish colleges, a fact borne out by the “tiny” number of reports over the six-year period.

“If somebody suffers a physical illness, if they are bereaved or have a mental illness, the colleges are set up to understand and to hear about these, and to deal with these things,” she said.

Until the adequate systems are in place for reporting sexual assault in college, Blackwell believes they will not be entirely safe.

“Colleges should be a safe place for everybody, student or staff member, who passes through.”

All figures and information about those disciplined at each college were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

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