Cover-Ups and Misuse of Non-Discolure Agreements (NDAs) in Universities - Media Archive


Universities use non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). NDAs are agreements used to prevent information on wrongdoing or corruption to be disclosed publicly. NDAs are agreements that require the person who signs them to keep certain information confidential; the original purpose of an NDA is to prevent commercially sensitive information, such as trade secrets, to be disclosers by employees of a company, especially when changing jobs, so that other companies would not learn about the commercial operations of the first company.

However, NDAs can also be used to prevent disclosure of “uncomfortable” and damaging information, such a sexual misconduct, bullying, discrimination and other types of misconduct.

Why do universities use NDAs?

Universities use NDAs to prevent academic and non-academic staff and students from disclosing information that the university does not want to be in the public domain, such as sexual misconduct, bullying, discrimination, research misconduct and many other types of wrongdoing. This is information that the university regards as potentially harming its reputation.

Universities are known to make extensive (and excessive) use of NDAs. For example, a university used NDAs (as they left their employment) to prevent at least 10 female academics from speaking about sexual harassment by the same male academic, who continued to work at the university.

NDAs are a tool for universities to suppress information that the public would find shocking in order to protect the reputation of the university and of the university’s management. Through NDAs, universities prevent the staff and students of that university, as well as prospective staff and students, from understanding the full extent of wrongdoing and corruption within the university: it is a tool for information control.

Besides suppressing important knowledge, the use of NDAs in universities is highly problematic because it allows universities to escape accountability. If there is a known bully, sexual predator or a person committing wrongdoing, universities are able to keep this person at the university without anyone knowing. This means that this person can continue to harm others with impunity, as in the example above.

The use of NDAs by universities is widespread across the sector. It is not a case of one or two universities, but the vast majority of universities use them.


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