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Harris demands zero tolerance towards sexual harassment among students

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said colleges and universities must adopt best practice across the board to tackle the issue.

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Simon Harris believes colleges and universities are ‘very serious about getting on top of this issue’ (Photocall Ireland/PA)

Simon Harris believes colleges and universities are ‘very serious about getting on top of this issue’ (Photocall Ireland/PA)

Simon Harris believes colleges and universities are ‘very serious about getting on top of this issue’ (Photocall Ireland/PA)

Colleges and universities must adopt a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment and assaults among students, the Higher Education Minister has said.

Simon Harris said he wants to see best practice apply to every third-level educational institution when it comes to sexual harassment and violence.

He said he will implement a new framework so that colleges can comply.

“When it comes to sexual harassment at third-level institutions, there has to be a zero-tolerance policy,” he said.

“It is not good enough to say ‘ah yeah, we’re doing that’. We need to clearly monitor the implementation of the framework so we can measure progress.

“We need to carry out an annual survey of staff and students so that year-on-year we can monitor the experiences of students and staffs at third level. The area of sexual harassment at colleges is an issue that needs more coverage.”

Parents need to know their children are safe when they go to college so best practice must apply across the boardSimon Harris, Higher Education Minister

He said best practice must apply to all third-level institutions when it comes to tackling the prevalence of sexual assaults among students.

“Parents need to know their children are safe when they go to college so best practice must apply across the board. Best practice has to be the only practice and it has to become the national norm,” he said.

Mr Harris said third-level institutions must comply with these new measures as the Government provides them with most of their funding.

“We’re providing an awful lot of funding to them including 268 million euro last week of additional funding. I fully respect autonomy but there is no place for autonomy when it comes to the safety and protection of women and indeed men when tackling sexual harassment.

“Each year as we allocate funding to third-level institutions about certain criteria that needs to be met, and I’ll certainly be considering the issue of the framework on sexual harassment in that context.

“I do want to say this – we detect very clearly from our universities and colleges that they are very serious about getting on top of this issue.”

PA