Consent classes 'to help create safe college campuses'
Third-level colleges are under orders to work at making their campuses free from sexual violence and harassment through the implementation of a range of measures, including offering students classes in consent and calling out unacceptable behaviour.
A drive to create campuses where everyone feels safe and supported is not a "box-ticking" exercise they have been told, and compliance with the new Framework for Consent in Higher Education Institutions will feature in annual funding discussions between individual colleges and the Higher Education Authority (HEA).
Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor said they had "a duty of care to their students and staff and this framework is about instigating change". She said: "I want the results to be comprehensive and game-changing."
Funding of €400,000 is being made available over 2019-2020 to help colleges to deliver on the aims of the 'Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive - Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions' framework.
The framework was developed by an expert advisory group, led by Dr Anne Looney, dean of education at Dublin City University, and comprising academics, students, and leaders in the area of sexual health among students, and draws from international best practice and research.
Classes on consent or calling out unacceptable behaviour as a bystander are not being made mandatory for students, but they will be encouraged to attend, particularly first years.
As well as awareness-raising initiatives, the framework requires institutions to have supporting structures and processes in place, including a senior member of management assigned responsibility for implementing the framework, guidelines for addressing student complaints, and transparency for all involved.
Colleges will also have to record statistics on sexual harassment, assault and rape and report them to the HEA, and ensure that support services are visible.