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Matthew is a student of theology at the University of Ballygob and a member of: Administrative Law Essay, UCD, Ireland

University University College Dublin (UCD)
Subject Administrative Law

Matthew is a student of theology at the University of Ballygob and a member of “The Catholic Ireland Student Campaign” (CISC). In January 2016, Matthew receives a 45% mark for his essay on “Theories of Human Rights”. He emails his lecturer, Dr. Casey, requesting feedback. Dr Casey replies tersely: “your essay was so infused with patriarchal religious ideology that it couldn’t conceivably warrant a higher grade”. On February 20th, 2016, CISC organises a protest on campus against the impending introduction of same-sex marriage in Ireland. Matthew is one of seven people in attendance at the protests. A counter-protest is organised by the University’s LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) society. Minor scuffles break out and insults are exchanged between the groups. The Registrar of the University, who witnesses the event, intervenes in an attempt to keep the peace and receives a bloodied nose in the process.

On February 28, Matthew receives an email from the Director of Student Discipline, Dr Martin, requesting him to attend a meeting of the Student Disciplinary Committee on March 4, “in relation to an alleged infraction of the Student Code of Conduct in connection with the protests held on February 20”. Matthew replies to request further details of the allegation but Dr Martin replies stating: “details of the allegations will be communicated to you during the March 4 hearing.” He is informed that the disciplinary committee will consist of Dr Martin, the Registrar, and Dr Casey, Matthew’s lecturer from the Department of Theology.

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Under Article 20 of the Student Code of Conduct, students may be reprimanded, suspended, fined or expelled for “conduct likely to bring the university into disrepute”. In Article 35 of the Code of Conduct “the University recognises the right of students to engage in non-violent protest”; Article 38 provides: “the University respects the constitutional rights of students, particularly the right to freedom of expression and peaceable assembly”.

At the disciplinary hearing, Matthew is informed that the committee has received two anonymous witness reports alleging that during the disturbances on February 20, he verbally abused members of the LBGT society using abusive, hateful and derogatory terms. The witness statements are read out by the Registrar. Matthew is given an opportunity to respond to the allegations and while he admits shouting the words: “gay marriage is a perversion”, he denies using derogatory terms “about gay people as such.” In response to this, Dr Casey remarks: “well isn’t opposing equal rights hateful in itself?

The committee suspends Matthew from attending lectures for the remaining five weeks of term. It bases its decision on the grounds that there is sufficient evidence that Matthew used “hate speech”, and alternatively that his “belligerent tone” in relation to same-sex marriage rights was “sufficient to bring the University into disrepute within the meaning of Article 35 of the Code”. Furthermore it finds that “actions of this sort do not constitute ‘non-violent protest’ within the meaning of the same provision.”

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