Opinion: Students say ‘no’ to consent classes

by Emily Crowley

Consent classes in UCD have been cancelled due to lack of interest. Credit: UCD SU


It was about this time last year that University College Dublin’s student newspaper ‘The College Tribune’ sparked rumours that 200 male students were sharing images of young women they had sexual relations with through Facebook.

Although allegations were found to be false, the student union in UCD devised plans to host mandatory consent classes for all students. Each student also received a letter from Deputy President Mark Rogers, who lay down a zero-tolerance bar for abusive behaviour online.

However this week, we heard news that all consent classes across the UCD campus were cancelled. For a college with a student body of approximately 30,000 students, around 20 of them turned up to the class.

That’s a shocking 0.066 per cent attendance rate.

So why the low figures? Is it because everyone has educated themselves in this past year? Is it because they think rape occurrences are declining? Or is it because the classes don’t matter?

Well I can tell you the answer to all of the above. No.

According to a report by the Union of Students in Ireland, one in 12 female students are the victim of rape or attempted rape. Does it seem like a small enough figure when you think the entire student population in Ireland? Now think of how many female students are in your class.

So you’re in a small course and there’s 24 female students in your class, the worst the figure could be is two young women, right?

Well that’s two women too many – and if you did not have that attitude when reading that last paragraph then you need to go to a consent class.

The USI report was based on a survey of 2,752 students, including some 926 men. Of the men surveyed, one per cent reported to have been victims of rape or attempted rape.

You did not think that could happen, did you? Well if you did not, then you need to go to a consent class.

There has been a lot of speculation over the past couple of months on whether or not consent classes need to be made mandatory for students across Ireland.

The UCD welfare officer Róisín O’ Mara said in a recent interview with The Irish Times, that students probably didn’t go to the classes because they wouldn’t like to be seen as not understanding what consent really is, and also that those who may need to go to the classes would not have gone.

Which is maybe why it is time that the classes are made mandatory. By educating such a young yet vulnerable audience on the topic, it leaves behind a footprint for future students in years to come. It is definitely not a stable solution, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Emily Crowley