The University’s statement on the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements in sexual misconduct cases
“Alongside our colleagues across the higher education sector, we condemn all forms of sexual harassment, abuse and violence. It takes extreme courage to speak up about sexual abuse, and no one should be silenced or disbelieved when they do so. We never have, and never will, use Non-Disclosure Agreements in sexual misconduct cases at the University of Hertfordshire, either for student or staff cases.
The institution takes complaints very seriously and has strong policies in place that ensure cases are investigated thoroughly and fairly, regardless of the outcome of a criminal investigation. We review these regularly and have recently updated our bullying and harassment policy with input from the Hertfordshire Students’ Union and other key stakeholders. The updated policy now includes a specific Sexual Violence and Harassment Appendix and more clearly outlines our zero-tolerance approach – pledging that no sexual misconduct behaviours will ever go unchallenged.
We stand with all victims and seek to support them from prevention to reporting and after-care in the best way we can, alongside local partners and specialist organisations. Our Speak Out reporting system enables staff and students to report any incidents confidentially and anonymously. Our student Wellbeing service, Dean of Students team, Hertfordshire Students’ Union team, HR department and employee assistance programme are all available to support victims throughout the process of reporting and beyond.
The University of Hertfordshire contributed to the UUK’s Changing Culture report, which examines violence against women, harassment and hate crime against university students. We embrace the report’s recommendations to take a co-ordinated, institution-wide approach to manage the risks of sexual violence, meet the needs of those affected, and create a culture where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. We expect everyone in our community to share this responsibility and uphold our values. We need to keep listening, keep acting and keep supporting.
As a result, and in discussion with the Hertfordshire Students’ Union President, Rhiannon Ellis, the University of Hertfordshire has recently signed the Can’t Buy My Silence pledge, a campaign committed to ending the practice of using Non-Disclosure Agreements in sexual harassment cases in the Higher Education sector.”
Geraldine Ward, Dean of Students at the University of Hertfordshire