University of Limerick lecturer issues apology after sending out 'misogynistic' email

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

Dr Dermot Shinners-Kennedy and the email that was sent to the opinions forum

Dr Dermot Shinners-Kennedy and the email that was sent to the opinions forum

A MEMBER of University of Limerick’s governing authority has issued an apology to campus staff after he wrote an e-mail that was labelled as “misogynistic” and “laden with thinly veiled sexual innuendo”.

Dr Dermot Shinners-Kennedy, a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, wrote that UL was “not planning to mark the celebration of the status of maleness or being a man” for International Men’s Day this year.

He penned the open e-mail to the campus community in the UL “Opinions” e-mail thread on November 20. 

In his apology last Friday, he wrote that he “used words and metaphors that might form part of a rejected script for an episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys”.

The e-mail, which has seen by this newspaper, sparked outrage over four days.

It said that “it looks like there is going to be no ‘Feel a prick for IMD’ campaign like last year’s one. Maybe the members of the equality unit believe men’s health only needs a campaign every now and again and that it is not necessary to make them feel a prick every year. In fairness the ‘Feel a prick for IMD’ initiative was open to all members of the campus community and the university tried to encourage as many as possible to have a blood test and cholesterol check.”

Dr Shinners-Kennedy added: “Who knows, maybe for International Women’s Day next year the university might consider having a ‘Feel an organism for IWD’ event as part of a STEM discipline promotion to encourage women into science. The feeling organisms initiative would encourage them to pet something hairy like a lab mouse or rat, hold a frog or a worm in their hand, or feel a spider walking on their arm. Of course, participants who enjoyed it could feel multiple organisms if they wanted to. Unfortunately, because of our [Athena Swan Strategy] restrictions ‘The Feel an Organism for IWD’ would be open to FEMALE members of the campus community ONLY — but the idea is still worth considering don’t you think?”

Reacting, an Irish World Academy lecturer said sending an e-mail “laden with thinly veiled sexual innuendo is not productive. It is insulting, lazy, and frankly unacceptable. I don’t accept it on the street and I’m certain I won’t accept it in the workplace”.

A female senior lecturer said Dr Shinners-Kennedy’s comments “make a mockery of a policy of dignity and respect in the workplace setting” and accused the academic that his “words only reveals that your misogynistic tendencies are over the top”.

A female psychology lecturer wrote: “Were this the US, I suppose you would be tweeting #whitelivesmattertoo.”

She added: “Thanks to all the strong women for calling you out, it is encouraging that there are still those not afraid to speak out where they see injustice.”

A careers advisor said that his e-mail was “a bit creepy”.

One commended Dr Shinners-Kennedy for his “courage to express a valid viewpoint that was sure to receive aggressive attacks in an outrage culture we currently live in. How sad is it that you need courage to express your views on an opinions thread, due to the fear of being vilified?”

On December 1, Dr Shinners-Kennedy issued an apology on the same e-mail thread, saying that he posted on the Opinions forum “seeking to engage with the university’s equality ethos”.

He stated that the original e-mail could have questioned secondary school dropout rates for boys, why the HEA wants universities to have common entry courses, or why more men enrol in female-dominated disciplines. “But it didn’t. Instead it used words and metaphors that might form part of a rejected script for an episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys. They were inappropriate and offensive. I want to unreservedly apologise for that.”

He said that his commitment to “equality and diversity has a long history and remains steadfast”. He concluded: “Nonetheless, because I was elected unapposed, I have decided to withdraw my name from the composition of the incoming governing authority to demonstrate the sincerity of my words and to facilitate equality and diversity.”

The Limerick Leader made several attempts to contact Dr Shinners-Kennedy this week without success. 

A UL spokesperson said: “UL cannot comment on individuals. UL has in place robust procedures to address any complaints it may receive. UL maintains a Dignity and Respect Policy to which all staff must adhere, as well as a number of supplementary policies with regard to use of university emails and IT facilities.”