‘Suggesting we need training to behave decently’: UCD staff hit out at ‘Dignity and Respect’ pledge

Emails seen by Gript show that some members of UCD’s faculty have hit back at a Dignity and Respect pledge, saying the measure creates an “attitude of suspicion” – and that it seems the college administration suspects the faculty members of “the most left-wing institution imaginable of being “bullies, harassers” and “potential sexual predators”.

One UCD staff member wrote that: “it is not treating faculty with dignity or respect to suggest they must be trained to behave decently.”

On September 22, members of the academic faculty at University College Dublin received an email notifying them of the launch of a programme entitled ‘Building a Respectful Culture at UCD.’ This is part of a Dignity and Respect programme designed to address “bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct.”

This follows the establishment of a Dignity and Respect Support Service and the creation of a new position within UCD of a Dignity and Respect Oversight Group.

The Chairperson of that group, Professor Aoife Ahern, along with Professor Colin Scott, the Vice-President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, are the two signatories on the email to the faculty at UCD.

The email states that the programme has been designed in consultation with various groups and experts. It does not specifically refer to the British leftie NGO giant Athena SWAN, to whom we have referred to previously, but UCD clearly values getting medals from that particular “no body asked me but” self-appointed authority on everything to do with equality and diversity in academia.

Indeed, I have referred to this Blairite monster previously in relation to Cambridge University, where members of the faculty succeeded in having the Athena SWAN Charter – which attempted to force acceptance of dubious gender ideology into the day to day operations of the university and the courses it offers – rejected.. The point was made that Cambridge was already had to adhere to equality legislation and that there was no need for this other intrusion into the realm of intellectual freedom.

The UCD Dignity and Respect Policy enjoins that all members of the university community have
a responsibility to,

  • At all times, treat all members of the University community that they interact with dignity and respect
  • Positively contribute to a culture of dignity and respect
  • Engage in respectful conduct or behaviour that will not endanger their own safety, health and welfare or work or that of any other person including obligations under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005
  • Be aware of the effects of their own behaviour
  • Challenge bullying, sexual harassment or other harassment and report any incidents witnesses

Staff in UCD have raised concerns about the new policy and particularly about the implication that people have the duty to not only adhere to certain standards of behaviour themselves but to report any perceived transgressions by others.

This is what is referred to as a “bystander policy” which is in place in some American universities.

One UCD staff member claims that the programme at UCD is clearly influenced by such thinking, pointing to supporting documentation which specifies:

“We want to ensure that there is a common understanding of inappropriate behaviours and of everyone’s responsibility to be active bystanders and to contribute to a culture of dignity and respect”

The person in question claims that “the whole tenor of the approach here is one of an attitude of suspicion, from the admin to the faculty.”

“It would seem that Faculty in the most left wing institution imaginable are suspected of being bullies, harassers, potential sexual predators… maybe there’s a link there?!” they wrote.

“But it is not treating faculty with dignity or respect to suggest they must be trained to behave decently.  A common understanding of inappropriate behaviour?  Why, have we not yet been socialised?”

There would appear to be a certain level of unhappiness too, that while the Irish Federation of University Teachers have assured members that they will not have to take a pledge to adhere to the principles, that staff should still take part in the training that is designed around them.

“Over the past year the university has introduced a wide ranging programme of supports and training for dignity and respect among staff and students at the university.

As part of this, in June a new service for staff and students seeking to disclose bullying or sexual harassment opened at University College Dublin, the first of its kind in the Irish Higher Education sector in Ireland. UCD employees and students who disclose issues of bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct, and those who are reported for such issues, now have access to a team of advisers through the UCD Dignity and Respect Support Service that are experienced and trained to support, respond and advise them.

As regards to the new online dignity and respect training programme for staff, the university has received and listened to feedback on the voluntary pledge component and is reviewing this particular element.”

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