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Dr Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain (file photo). SASKO LAZAROV/ROLLINGNEWS.IE

UCD apologises to Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin for 'inadequate response' to sexual harassment

The broadcaster and academic said it “closes a chapter” on the ordeal, which began in 2015.

ACADEMIC AND BROADCASTER Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin has received a written apology from University College Dublin for how it dealt with bullying and sexual harassment at the hands of a colleague for two years.

Acting president of UCD Mark Rogers told Shúilleabháin that “university policies at the time were inadequate to address the situation” she experienced at the college from 2015 to 2017.

He thanked her for speaking out about her treatment, adding that UCD’s policies have been “transformed” since and that he looked forward to seeing Ní Shúilleabháin “thrive and contribute to a safer UCD”.

Commenting on the letter, Ní Shúilleabháin said change has been achieved “across higher education to address sexual harassment and violence”, and said she was grateful she had received support from her family to carry on pushing the issue.

“I’m so grateful for my friends and family who never let me let this go. I really hope others don’t experience what I went through,” she said.

“I hope my kids will grow up & study or work in environments that don’t accept bullying, harassment or violence in any form.”

In the letter, which Ní Shúilleabháin has posted on social media, Rogers said it was “clear you were not supported appropriately” and that she was not encouraged to make a formal complaint about her treatment.

“University policies at the time were inadequate to address the situation, contributing to an inadequate and untimely response to those actions by the university,” Rogers wrote.

Ní Shúilleabháin previously said she had been subjected to regular harassment by a professor at the university, Hans-Benjamin Braun, which involved him regularly showing up in her office at Belfield, asking her out on dates and making persistent phone calls.

Ní Shúilleabháin reported the situation to gardaí and Braun was charged with harassment and issued with a court order in late 2019 barring him from contacting her for five years, according to the Irish Times.

In September 2020, she received a written apology from President of University College Dublin, Professor Andrew Deeks for what happened.

According to the letter from Acting President Mark Rogers, he and Ní Shúilleabháin recently met to discuss her complaints.

He said “substantial change was required” in how UCD addressed such workplace issues,  adding that”transformative changed” has since taken place in respect of its policies and procedures.

Rogers paid credit to the lecturer for speaking out, after she was not able to partake in a review of the procedures.

“Despite highlighting these issues and seeking to be part of the initial policy review, you were not facilitated in this. Your subsequent action in speaking out about your experiences contributed significantly to the recognition that substantial change was required.

“The experience you went through could not be further from the culture and working environment we strive to create,” he said, “I apologise on behalf of the university for the events that occurred and the impact that they had upon you. I look forward to seeing you thrive and contribute to a safer UCD.”

Ní Shúilleabháin posted that she was relieved to receive the acknowledgement of how the matter was addressed.

“It is (a) great relief to be able to move on from this with the acknowledgment that my experiences were not adequately or appropriately dealt with,” she tweeted.

She paid thanks to colleagues, organisations and a number of politicians who had her supported over the past seven years.

“Thank you also to everyone who has brought in change across higher Ed to address sexual harassment & violence,” she said.

“Thank you also to Acting President Prof Mark Rogers for showing leadership on this, where it wasn’t apparent before.”

She said it was a “great way to end 2022 and close the chapter” on the issue, while stating that “one big lesson” she had learned was to join a union to help represent her.

“I wish I had joined sooner,” she said of the Irish Federation of University Teachers.