Lack of funding for sexual consent classes in Trinity, Oireachtas committee told

Students’ union says support services ‘stretched to the limit’

Students who took sexual consent classes at Trinity College Dublin  found them relevant to college life, an Oireachtas committee was told on Tuesday. File photograph: Eric Luke

Students who took sexual consent classes at Trinity College Dublin found them relevant to college life, an Oireachtas committee was told on Tuesday. File photograph: Eric Luke

 

It may not be possible to extend classes on sexual consent to all students at Trinity College Dublin due to a lack of funding, an Oireachtas committee was told on Tuesday.

Trinity College Dublin students’ union has run consent workshops for students living in Trinity Hall college accommodation based in Rathmines, and these saw 90 per cent attendance rates last year.

In a submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills, TCD students’ union president Shane De Rís said the model employed in Trinity has proven its value and effectiveness, and the necessity of the workshops cannot be understated.

He told the committee, which is examining the effectiveness, timeliness and certification of sexual consent classes at Ireland’s universities, that 99 per cent of those who attended stated the relevance of the workshops to college life and 87 per cent agreed that they learned something useful.

“The challenge now lies in broadening the accessibility of the workshops. We operate in an environment where support services are stretched to the limit and the resources necessary to make the workshops available to all students in Trinity are limited,” he said.

He said if the the Department of Education and Skills wants to see change and to put an end to sexual violence at third level, colleges need tangible support in the form of resources.

Committee chair Fiona O’Loughlin TD said there appeared to be a fragmented approach in terms of how consent classes are taught across colleges and a standardised approach is needed.

A recent study by NUI Galway indicated that about 70 per cent of women and 40 per cent of men reported experiencing some level of sexual hostility by the end of their third level studies.

Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, said she is considering making classes on sexual consent compulsory in all Irish colleges.

While sexual consent classes have been adopted by some colleges or students’ unions, they are usually on a voluntary basis.

In her submission, Síona Cahill, president of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) said there is broad consensus that consent needs to be mainstreamed into the education of young people and students.

She said funding should be made available so that every third level institution can operate sexual consent workshops on campuses, through orientation or by modules offered through the curriculum.

Last year, University College Dublin students’ union cancelled workshops on consent they had offered, due to low uptake from students.