University of York pledges against the use of NDAs to silence sexual assault claims
York is one of 13 universities to sign the ‘Can’t Buy My Silence’ pledge
CW: Mentions of sexual violence
The University of York has pledged not to use Non-Disclosure Agreements to silence reported cases of sexual assault and harassment.
It is one of 13 universities to sign the pledge run by the organisation Can’t Buy My Silence.
A spokesperson for the University of York told the York Tab: “The University does not, and will not, use non-disclosure agreements to silence people who come forward to raise complaints of sexual harassment, abuse or misconduct, or other forms of harassment and bullying.”
The pledge, supported by campaign groups and MPs, commits universities to not use legally-binding NDAs against students and staff who come forward to report abuse, amidst fears victims are being pressured into signing agreements that stop them from speaking out and protect the reputations of perpetrators.
This comes after a 2020 BBC study found nearly a third of universities had been using Non-Disclosure Agreements since 2016. In total, over 300 NDAs were used by universities to resolve student complaints between 2016 and 2020.
Michelle Donelan MP, Minister for Higher Education, launched a call for action alongside campaign group Can’t Buy My Silence asking University Vice-Chancellors to sign the following pledge:
“Backed by the Minister for Higher and Further Education, former Equalities Select Committee Chair Maria Miller MP and campaign group #CantBuyMySilence, we [our vice-chancellor and higher education provider] commit to not using Non-Disclosure Agreements to silence people who come forward to raise complaints of sexual harassment, abuse or misconduct, or other forms of harassment and bullying.”
In response to the pledge, a spokesperson for the University of York told The York Tab:
“The University does not, and will not, use non-disclosure agreements to silence people who come forward to raise complaints of sexual harassment, abuse or misconduct, or other forms of harassment and bullying. We were one of the first to sign the pledge, which is one of a number of measures to promote a culture at the university where all our students and staff feel safe, supported, and able to report unacceptable behaviour. This includes making it as easy as possible for our students to come forward through our Report & Support tool, which has an option of anonymous reporting.”
In another statement, Kelly Balmer, YUSU Community and Wellbeing Sabbatical Officer, said: “It is fantastic to see that the University of York is one of the first Universities to sign the ‘Can’t Buy My Silence’ Pledge, stating that they will no longer use NDAs for complaints about sexual harassment, bullying and other forms of misconduct.
“York is an institution that is wanting to make progress in terms of how it handles misconduct, and I hope that this will provide a bit of faith in the student population that it is moving in the right direction.”