In a government press release yesterday morning, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris TD confirmed that a survey is to be undertaken into instances of harassment, sexual harassment and bullying of staff and students in Higher Education Institutions (HEI).
This survey is set to commence in the new year. Minister Harris has said that the Higher Education Authority (HEA) is “working closely with the higher education institutions in this regard”.
Speaking yesterday at an Irish University Association event, Minister Harris announced the introduction of specific action plans for tackling sexual harassment and violence in third level institutions.
These action plans involve “the implementation of systems that record the number of incidents of bullying, intimidation or harassment including sexual harassment”.
Once these systems are in place, HEIs will be required to report their findings annually to the HEA.
Minister Harris highlighted previous inconsistencies in the reporting of these institutions by HEIs as a major barrier in tackling the issue thus far, stating that there has been a “lack of data indicating the extent of the problem”.
Minister Harris also emphasised the need to create a “culture of zero tolerance where education around consent is a requirement and not an option” for both staff and students in HEIs.
Dr Ross Woods, of the HEA Centre of Excellence for Gender Equality, welcomed the introduction of the Framework for Consent and highlighted “the pressing issue of harassment of staff”.
Dr Woods emphasized the effect this kind of harassment can have on the careers of young female academics and stated that they are “committed to addressing this issue head-on.”
This news comes after Minister Harris wrote to the Presidents of all publicly funded HEIs in relation to strengthening the implementation of the Framework for Consent in HEIs.
In the academic year 2018/19 less than half of student reported sexual assault and harassment concerns were investigated by colleges.