University of Liverpool embroiled in ‘gagging order’ criticism

Gagging orders prevent bullying, discrimination and sexual misconduct allegations becoming public

A number of UK universities have been accused of using "gagging orders" to prevent allegations of bullying, discrimination or sexual misconduct becoming public. Of these universities, Liverpool is one of the offenders.

A number of academics from various universities, including Liverpool, told BBC News that they were harassed out of their jobs and made to sign non-disclosure agreements after they tried to complain.

A former music professor at University of Liverpool, Anahid Kassabian, broke her non-disclosure agreement to speak to the BBC. She said they she felt bullied out of her job and was treated as if she was a burden after being diagnosed with cancer. She had been working at UoL for ten years.

Ms Kassabian says that she broke her NDA in the hope that others will realise that they're not alone and will feel empowered to speak out. She told the BBC:

"We all think we're isolated and alone, sobbing over past wrongs, when in fact there are many, many of us, and if we could speak to each other it would feel very different."

Ms Kassabian also has multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia. She believes that her medical conditions led to her ability to work being called into question. She feels that the causes of the emotional stress she was under were not adequately addressed prior to her dismissal.

However, the BBC states that it has seen documents that suggest UoL felt it had done everything it could to support Ms Kassabian, and that it had a responsibility to support the teaching of students and work in the department as well as staff.

A University of Liverpool spokesperson said:

"We refute these allegations in the strongest possible terms. Ms Kassabian was not subject to discrimination or bullying and the university did not fail to make reasonable adjustments.

"Settlement agreements with a standard confidentiality clause are used for a range of cases including conduct, capability and redundancy. As we too are bound by confidentiality, we are unable to provide specifics in relation to her case."