Date Released: 28 November 2012
Five students at a Dublin third level college have had fines of up to €1000 and community service penalties imposed on them following their alleged homophobic abuse of a college lecturer on Facebook.
The lecturer in the college had to struggle with her employer for action to be taken in response to homophobic abuse posted on a Facebook page associated with the institution.
The worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, became aware of the abusive posts when she received a letter from a student at the end of May this year.
In the letter the student expressed concerns about the nature of comments on a Facebook page which had been established by student representatives to discuss matters of interest to a particular class of students. The name of the Facebook page featured the title of the third level institution.
The letter contained a screen grab of the Facebook page and informed the lecturer that a group of students had been posting abusive comments directed at her for several weeks.
The lecturer said: “The postings made me feel sick.”
It was however the failure of university management to take appropriate action against the perpetrators of the abuse which upset the worker most.
“The day after I received the letter I contacted management. The Equality Officer informed me that the students responsible would have to undertake a homophobic project with me supervising it. I, of course, told them this would not be appropriate.”
When the lecturer attempted to transfer her correction responsibilities for papers submitted by the students involved in the Facebook abuse, management let it be known that she would be disciplined if she did not carry out the work.
The worker contacted her SIPTU Organiser and eventually in September disciplinary action was taken against some of the students involved. However, the worker was not kept informed of the process, with no contact on the issue from the institution’s Equality Officer from 25th May until 1st November.
On the 30th October the lecturer received a letter indicating that a financial and community service penalty, with fines up to €1000, had been imposed on five students and they were also to write a letter of apology.
SIPTU Education Sector Organiser, Louise O’Reilly said: “Incidents such as this must be treated seriously and dealt with speedily. The union is putting together an information pack to inform members how to deal with Internet abuse. We will also be putting pressure on the management of educational establishments to publicly adopt a zero tolerance approach to such incidents.”