A University College Dublin (UCD) student has come under criticism after announcing his intent to create a mobile app with an aim to prevent “life destroying legal ramifications” for men following rape allegations.
In an email seen by Trinity News, a fourth year medicine student outlined that the app would allow parties to verify consent before engaging in sexual activity through an electronically signed contract.
The app, which is to be called “Consent”, seeks to rectify “the lack of communication [on consent] which is responsible for the destruction of thousands of lives every year”.
“With your help, we can fight the ever growing fear for men to be sued post intercourse due to consent not being recorded/denied/retracted [and] the life destroying legal ramifications that follow – as well as allowing for a clear opportunity if the other, for instance female, does not wish to continue in the act,” the email stated.
The email was circulated to third year, fourth year, and postgraduate computer science by the computer science department after the student contacted the department in an effort to recruit a mobile app developer.
UCD head of computer science, Professor Pádraig Cunningham, has stated that the school’s distribution of the email to students was an error.
A statement issued to students this morning stated: “School mailing lists should not have been used to circulate this email. It was issued in error. Please disregard the email.”
Cunningham apologised to students in receipt of the email “for the offence it has caused”. He outlined that the school would “review and improve its approval process for all proposed emails to be sent to students on our lists, to ensure that this cannot happen again”.
The student creating the app told the Irish Times that he has received 26 responses to the email, which was searching for a mobile app developer who would receive equity in the company in return for their services.
“Out of the 26 responses, we got 24 positive, two misinterpreted it,” the student said.
“Perhaps my wording was very flawed and misleading on the primary email,” he continued. “The very instant I feel this app would be doing harm, I will be the first to terminate it.”
Consent has been a focus in student activism for the last several years, with outrage sparked in 2018 regarding the treatment of women who report rape crimes following two prominent court cases on sexual assault.
Students rallied behind an unnamed woman at the centre of a rape trial in Belfast last year, which saw Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, who play for Ulster’s rugby team, found not guilty of rape alongside two other defendants. The not guilty verdict sparked protests under a mantra of “I Believe Her” in support for the woman.
A rape trial case in Cork, during which the underwear the victim was wearing on the night of the incident were held up in the court, led to rallies across the country with images of underwear and the slogan: “This Is Not Consent”. Speaking to Trinity News at Dublin’s This Is Not Consent rally in November, Ruth Coppinger T.D. said that students were in a “very strong position” to protest because of their ability to “organize together”.
According to a report released by the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway), 70% of women experience sexual hostility during their time in college, while perceptions of whether a person under the influence of alcohol is able give consent highlighted an “urgent” need to achieve enhanced “awareness among young adults in college of the impact of drinking on the capacity to give consent”.
The student behind the app did not respond to a request for comment from Trinity News.