End the use of NDAs in case of sexual misconduct

Tuesday 23-02-2021 - 16:04

This is a policy passed by NUS Scotland Conference 2021

NUS Scotland Notes: 

It is clear that sexual violence and abuse is a sector-wide problem within higher-education. 62% of students and graduates have experienced sexual assault at UK universities according to research from Revolt Sexual Assault and The Student Room in 2018.  70% of female students and recent graduates have experienced sexual assault, as well as 26% of male students, 61% of non-binary students, and 73% of disabled students. In addition, NUS found in 2019 that 75% of respondents to a survey on sexual violence reported having had unwanted sexual experiences at least once.

And yet, universities and colleges still use non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in response to sexual violence. Universities UK say that using NDAs to keep victims quiet should not be tolerated  - and yet, it continues to be tolerated. In 2019, BBC found that UK Universities have spent around £87 million in pay-offs with NDAs since 2017.  Nearly a third of Universities have used NDAs in student grievance disputes since 2016. NDAs are often unenforceable by universities, and so we must understand that their purpose is to intimidate survivors into silence and to conceal and protect perpetrators of abuse, assault, and rape. By using NDAs, our institutions are enabling the actions of perpetrators and allowing cycles of abuse to continue.  
As a movement, we aim to provide students a space to build communities to socialise and learn and work to protect and defend the rights of students. A fundamental part of these aims is ensuring that our students are safe to study at our institutions. We have a responsibility to ensure our students are not being silenced, and our universities aren’t working to actively protect perpetrators of sexual violence or harassment.   
Stopping gagging orders from being used to manipulate the students we represent is not only important, but we believe it is also necessary, and a mandatory action towards ending gender-based and sexual violence on our campuses; it will force our institutions to be more transparent about their actions with regards to sexual misconduct within student grievance cases, and to stop enabling abusers. In addition, if we were able to make a legislative change around their use within our sector, we would also be setting a precedent for other sectors where this is a problem. 

NUS Scotland Believes

•    NDAs should not be used in cases of sexual misconduct in universities and colleges 

•    Universities and colleges should be transparent in their use of NDAs when reporting to relevant funding and policy-making bodies 

Ideas for implementation: 


•    Make a statement against the use of NDAs in cases of sexual misconduct 
•    Lobby the UK and Scottish Parliaments for tangible legislation against the use of NDAs in cases of sexual misconduct 
•    Lobby candidates in future Parliamentery elections on the subject of stopping the use of NDAs in cases of sexual misconduct within universities & colleges 
•    Call on relevant funding and policy-making bodies to restrict Universities & Colleges use of NDAs within their KPIs 

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