NUI Galway joined a nationwide initiative on Friday 5 November by launching its online platform ‘Speak Out’ for staff and students to anonymously report instances of bullying, harassment and violence.
Developed for Ireland’s higher education institutions and led by the Psychological Counsellors in Higher Education Ireland (PCHEI), the platform will allow for increased recording and monitoring of incidents which will then be used to develop prevention and support.
Speaking at the launch, President of NUI Galway Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said that the university was delighted to support the initiative which is consistent with the college’s own value of respect.
“We are a respectful, open community, committed to welcoming and sustaining, in excellence, all the talents. All members of the University community have the right to study or work in an environment free from bullying, harassment and sexual harassment.
“’Speak Out’ empowers our community in reporting such incidents. I encourage them to do so and to confront those elements of society that are unwelcome and unwelcoming and therefore in need of change,” he said.
The ground-breaking project comes as a result of cross-institutional collaboration in response to such incidences within higher education institutions. Data collected through ‘Speak Out’ will be used to inform policy and to provide users with support services relevant to their experience.
NUI Galway Students’ Union Vice President for Welfare and Equality Cora Clarke said that the ‘Speak Out tool’ is the result of hard work by many people and its development is a great success.
When asked if there are any measures in place to combat people abusing the anonymous platform Ms Clarke said that she does not anticipate that it will be abused.
“As far as I am aware there are no measures to prevent this as any sort of process that would require a victim to authenticate the incident they are reporting could discourage victims from using the tool which is definitely not the desired effect,” she said.
Gemma MacNally from the NUI Galway student counselling service said they are proud to launch the tool for students and staff of the university.
“It is an important part of our institutional action plan to ensure that sexual violence and harassment become more visible and openly discussed. The ‘Speak Out’ tool provides a new option for people to have their voices heard.
“We will continue to work on other parts of the action plan, such as education and training on positive behaviours, supports, and the mutual respect that must underpin the NUI Galway experience,” Ms MacNally finished.
‘Speak Out’ was introduced in part following the 2020 Sexual Experiences Survey which was led by the NUI Galway Active Consent team and the Union of Students (USI). It found that new options were needed to support people in disclosing something that had happened to them.
The Speak Out tool is available at https://nuig.speakout.ie/.