Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, officially opened the Dignity and Respect Support Service in UCD.
The first of its kind in the sector, the service works with employees and students who disclose issues of bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct and those who are reported for such issues.
Speaking, Minister Harris said, “I know what a service like this means to students and staff. I’ve travelled across the country, visiting colleges and universities, where I meet with student reps who tell me of the impact on students who have a distressing or harmful experience. This is a huge step forward. The Higher Education sector must continue to lead the way on changes in institutional mind-set, championing the changes required to achieve a cultural norm where bullying and sexual harassment are not tolerated.”
“I want to thank the whole team involved in opening the Dignity and Respect Service, and I commend their work in this extremely important area. On officially opening this service today, I want to encourage anyone who feels the need to reach out to use this service.”
The service provides non-judgmental support to enable individuals consider the right option for them, while they are also available to those against whom allegations of inappropriate behaviour are made. Different advisers support the people involved to avoid a conflict of interest.
There is team of advisers that are experienced and trained to support, respond and advise on all reports of a dignity and respect nature.
If the individual decides to make a formal complaint they will assist and will provide support throughout the formal complaint process which may include accompanying individuals to investigation meetings and the provision of aftercare support following any informal or formal interventions.
Minister Harris added, “UCD has taken a strong lead in ensuring that Higher Education Institutions are places that promote a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment and sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. How we treat each other matters, particularly in third level institutions as a melting pot of learning and transition for young people, as they may move out of home or develop their own way in life.”
“Treating people with respect and dignity must become ‘a given’. It must become the norm across our campuses and institutions, for students and staff. Our higher education institutions have a duty of care to their students and staff. We all have a responsibility to foster a campus culture that is clear in the condemnation of unwanted and unacceptable behaviours. These act as barriers to their safety and their active participation in college life and this cannot continue.”
Significant progress has been made regarding the Framework for Consent in Higher Education, since it was first launched in 2019. The Framework aims to ensure the creation of an institutional campus culture which is safe, respectful and supportive.
This year the Minister published surveys of student and staff experiences of sexual violence and harassment in higher education. A total of 11,417 responses were analysed (7,901 students and 3,516 staff) and inform the findings.
An Expert Advisory Group chaired by the HEA has reviewed the survey reports and has proposed a number of actions. These recommendations have been shared with the Department of Justice for inclusion in the Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.