UCC to introduce sexual consent classes for Law students

Welfare officer Katie Quinlan said the course would address the shortcomings in the education system around the topic

University College Cork is introducing a module on sexual consent for students who are studying Law, starting this September.

Speaking on Newstalk Lunchtime today, UCC Welfare officer Katie Quinlan said the course was an important step to address shortcomings in the education system around this topic. 

She said students get to third level without vital information about mental health, drug and alcohol awareness, and sexual consent: "Primary and Secondary level education is failing students massively."

"Students come to us and we're just trying to get all this information in so that each student can have a safe time in college."

Quinlan said the reasons for targeting law students specifically stemmed from her research on what other institutions were doing to tackle the issue.

"We had a look at different colleges and the University of West England seemed to be the most effective," she explained.

"[Dr. Rachel Fenton] put together a module and started with her own law students. At the beginning of their degree they cover sexual assault law, rape law, domestic abuse, so it gelled in quite nicely with that."

Dr. Fenton then went on to develop an educational tool kit used by universities and colleges across England to help prevent sexual assaults and domestic abuse in university settings. The UCC course is being coordinated in line with that.

In a statement in the UCC Express, Katie Quinlan said the module will be piloted to all first year Law students for the 2016/17 academic year. If it is successful it will then rolled be out to all first years the following year.

Newstalk Lunchtime presenter Jonathan Healy remarked that there was something "really wrong" with the fact that this generation need to be taught the basics of consent and sexual respect before they learn about criminal law.

Quinlan agreed that colleges "shouldn't have to" teach this topic but cases of sexual assaults and domestic abuse are happening every day.

"We only have to look at the Stanford rape case - that's not an isolated incident."

She also added that the blame cannot be solely on parents for the way their children were raised.

"It all comes back to education," she said.

"Some of those parents don't understand what consent is and what actually constitutes sexual assault. They were never taught it in school."

The module will be available to all first year law students from September 2016 attending University College Cork.