Apology after ‘consent app’ proposal sent to UCD computer science students

Email on project said it would fight men’s ‘ever growing fear’ of being sued after sex

A UCD student has proposed a mobile phone application that  would allow two people to ‘electronically sign/verify [a] pre-made contract before engaging in sex’.

A UCD student has proposed a mobile phone application that would allow two people to ‘electronically sign/verify [a] pre-made contract before engaging in sex’.

 

The head of computer science at University College Dublin (UCD) has apologised after the school distributed an email from a student seeking help developing a phone app aimed at combatting women “retracting” consent after sex.

The proposed app would apparently allow two people to “electronically sign/verify [a] pre-made contract before engaging in sex”, according to the email circulated to students.

The app was being developed by a fourth year medical student, who emailed the university computer science school looking for someone to help with the project.

An email from the medical student was circulated to all postgrad, third year and final year computer science students by the department on Monday. The email said the proposed mobile phone app, called Consent, would “ensure consent is recorded” prior to sex.

The head of computer science at UCD Prof Pádraig Cunningham said the email was distributed by the school in error.

‘Growing fear’

“With your help we can fight the ever growing fear for men to be sued post intercourse due to consent not being recorded/denied/retracted, [and] the life destroying legal ramifications that follow,” the email to students said.

The email, as well as correspondence forwarding it to students from the computer science department, have been seen by The Irish Times.

The app would allow for a “clear opportunity” for a person to express that they did not wish to “continue in the act”, the email said. The app would also eliminate “the lack of communication which is responsible for the destruction of thousands of lives every year”.

Computer science students would be given an equity share in the proposed venture for their work developing the product, the medical student’s email said.

The email proposing the venture was circulated by a staff member working in the computer science school.

Responding to queries from The Irish Times, the medical student leading the project said he had received 26 responses to his email.

“Out of the 26 responses, we got 24 positive, two misinterpreted it. Perhaps my wording was very flawed and misleading on the primary email,” he said.

‘Legal rights’

The app idea would “not change the legal rights of an individual, only establishing/recording onset of consent”, the student said.

“The very instant I feel this app would be doing harm, I will be the first to terminate it,” he said.

In a statement to students on Tuesday morning, Prof Cunningham said the “school emailing lists should not have been used to circulate this email. It was issued in error. Please disregard the email”.

The email had not been “reviewed and approved” by the school before it was forwarded to students, he said.

“On behalf of the school, I would like to sincerely apologise to the students who have received this email and for the offence it has caused,” he told students.

Prof Cunningham said the school would “review and improve its approval process for all proposed emails to be sent to students on our lists, to ensure that this can not happen again”.

Barry Murphy, head of the UCD students’ union, said he was “appalled” at the contents of the message sent to students.

“This app will not solve any consent related issues. Consent goes a lot further than the click of a button, or two clicks, or three,” he said.