The University of Reading is backing a campaign not to use non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to silence complainants in sexual misconduct cases.

The University signalled its support by sharing a pledge launched by the Universities Minister Michelle Donelan MP.

The campaign, which is being promoted by campaign groups including #CantBuyMySilence, urges all universities to end the use of NDAs to prevent students and staff from speaking out in cases of sexual misconduct, harassment, and bullying.

Professor Robert Van de Noort, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading, said: “We signed the pledge in recognition that the misuse of NDAs leads to significant harm and mistrust. We at Reading do not use NDAs for this purpose.

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“We support the aims of campaigners in seeking to shine a light on the use of NDAs as gagging clauses, which could be misused to protect the powerful at the expense of justice.

“I hope this new step will lead to greater understanding of the need to tackle sexual harassment and misconduct in universities and wider society. Our commitment to the pledge follows an acceptance at Reading of the need to do more to prevent violence and harassment of women. I have joined with our Students’ Union president to call on men in particular to take responsibility for this issue.”

The pledge was welcomed by #CantBuyMySilence, a global campaign set up by former Harvey Weinstein aide Zelda Perkins and Professor Julie Macfarlane, which aims to end the harmful use of NDAs and who attended the virtual launch of the pledge alongside Ministers and university leaders.

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Alistair Jarvis CBE, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: “Universities have a duty of care towards their students and staff and take very seriously their responsibility to ensuring that life on campus is a fulfilling, safe and enjoyable experience for all.

“The overwhelming majority do have this positive experience, but in the small number of cases where episodes of harassment or violence sadly do occur, it is critical that victims feel supported and confident to speak out.”