Close to 200 students marched on the offices of Maynooth Students’ Union (MSU) today in protest against the culture of sexism they say the union is promoting. The protesters – who have organised this week under the banner of ‘Students Against Sexism’ – demanded to speak to Aidan McNally, MSU Vice President for Welfare and Equality Officer, and left a letter to him at the building after he failed to appear in front of the gathered crowd.
Speaking to Trinity News, Fiona Lynch, President of Maynooth FemSoc, said the group wanted to highlight the lack of accountability that allows sexism on campus to go unchallenged. “The main thing we wanted to draw attention to is the fact that there is never any disciplinary action for sexist behaviour,” she said. “SU officers have serious roles and should be aware of issues of equality and inclusivity. That has not been the case this year. We want to be taken seriously when we approach them about these kinds of things.”
Photo: Manus Lenihan
The demonstration took place in the wake of revelations about the hiring of women to strip naked at an event organised by a sabbatical officer of MSU on March 3rd. Ben Finnegan, the incumbent MSU President, and Mal Callan, the Vice-President for Services, Events and Communications, were both present in the MSU bar on campus as two women removed their underwear on stage, danced around an Irish flag, and gave lap dances to a number of male students in the audience. Callan organised the event in question as a ‘stag night’ after having agreed to take part in a charity mock wedding with the Welfare Officer of DCU Students’ Union (DCUSU).
In a statement issued yesterday, the protesters said the event “contravenes the idea of the SU as a safe place and promotes sexism through our SU”.
The group says it initiated the campaign “after years of institutional sexism” from MSU. In response to a Facebook query about the objective of its action, it cited a number of examples of sexist behaviour on campus, including the online abuse received by members of FemSoc and the consequent formation of a Maynooth ‘LadSoc’ in Spring 2012.
The activists are due to hold another meeting on March 25th to build on the momentum of the campaign.