Lancaster University Sign Pledge to Suspend the Use of NDAs in Cases of Sexual Harassment

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The campaign, ‘Can’t Buy My Silence’, aims to end the misuse of Non-Disclosure Agreements in cases concerning sexual misconduct, bullying, harassment and other types of misconduct.

On the 14th February 2022, Lancaster University announced, via Twitter, that the University will be signing the pledge in response to the ‘Can’t Buy My Silence’ Campaign.

‘Can’t Buy My Silence’ was established by Professor Julia Macfarlane and Zelda Perkins to end the misuse of NDAs so that they are only used to protect IP and trade secrets. In the past, NDAs have frequently been used to silence victims, cover up abuse and criminal acts.

According to their website, the goal of the ‘Can’t Buy My Silence’ campaign calls for “legislative and regulatory change that will make NDAs unenforceable for anything other than their original purpose” which is to prevent the “sharing of confidential business information.”

As of the 18th January 2022, Minister for Further and Higher Education in England, Michele Donelan, announced that Universities must stop using NDAs for complaints concerning sexual harassment and misconduct. Donelan said that she is “determined to see this shabby practice stamped out on our campuses.”

The first step in getting rid of this malpractice is through asking Universities to sign the pledge promising to stop “using Non-Disclosure Agreements to silence people who come forward to raise complaints.”

Often NDAs are harmful as it silences victims and create an environment where abusers can get away with harassment with little to no accountability; it protects abusers and harms the victims.

Lancaster University student, Meg Mitchell, commented that “it’s so important that victims feel safe to come forward without fear that they will be disregarded or that their abuser won’t be held accountable.”

Another student commented that “the #CantBuyOurSilence campaign shines a light on the cynical nature in which Universities are dealing with sexual harassment, allowing abusers to continue to run rampant in the meantime.”

“The fact NDAs were ever in place for cases of sexual harassment is beyond reprehensible; and as someone that has had extensive run-ins with abuse, I know that there is nothing more isolating and further traumatising than an inability to talk through the horrific events that took place.

“In fact, this is a common tactic used by abusers, making the concept even more upsetting for me, personally.” 

ANONYMOUS STUDENT

Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Schofield, who made the commitment on behalf of the University, said that, “we have not used non-disclosure agreements in such cases in the past and will not do so in the future either.” However “we strive to provide a healthy and inclusive environment in which all members of our community can feel safe. Any form of harassment is unacceptable and it’s vital that members of our University community are empowered to raise complaints and are not silenced.”

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