'We have to change the culture on every campus' — colleges launch consent campaign

'We have to change the culture on every campus' — colleges launch consent campaign

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris said there is a need to change the culture of consent awareness on every single campus. Picture: Julien Behal Photography

As students return to college campuses, a national campaign is seeking to drive positive conversations about consent and to help end sexual violence and harassment.

Universities and institutes of technology are today launching ‘#UnmuteConsent’ a campaign to drive awareness and help normalise conversations about consent. 

The campaign aims to "mobilise our student community to make a difference, by speaking out, by enhancing their own knowledge about consent, and ultimately, by changing behaviours". 

#UnmuteConsent will roll out across all higher education campuses, with its website www.unmuteconsent.ie highlighting the support and training available in each institution. Learning about consent will also form part of students’ induction to college. 

The campaign forms part of a significant body of work in the area by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), and other specialist bodies, including the USI and the Active* Consent Sexual Experiences Survey from 2020. 

Simon Harris, the Minister for Further and Higher Education, said he is working with students, staff, and higher education institutions to ensure there is a zero-tolerance approach to sexual violence and harassment. 

"We have to be leaders in this field,” Mr Harris said. 

We have to change the culture on every single campus and we will.

Sexual violence and harassment is a problem on third-level campuses, and across all strands of society in Ireland, according to Professor Colin Scott, of the Irish Universities Association (IUA).

“We want a safe and respectful third level experience for staff and students and know that a culture of speaking about consent can help transform how we as a society respond to unacceptable behaviour.” 

Clare Austick, president of the USI, said: “There have been many developments over the last few months in the areas of consent awareness and ending sexual violence and harassment on campuses, but we are still a long way away from fostering a zero-tolerance approach.

"The aim of this campaign is to empower students to talk about consent and contribute to the culture change we are hoping to see."

I’m sure the #UnmuteConsent campaign will be a driver in helping us to do that.

Dr Alan Wall, chief executive of the HEA, said as colleges reopen and students return to campuses "it is important that we ensure that they are entering a campus culture that is safe, respectful and supportive". 

Joseph Ryan, chief executive of the Technological Higher Education Association said: "Through this campaign, we want to kickstart the conversation about consent, to normalise it, and to encourage our campus communities to actively increase their knowledge about consent.”

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