Gagging orders are defined as a prevention of public disclosure on information of a controversial or sensitive matter. In April, universities were investigated, and it was found that Cardiff University spends, on average, nearly £8 million annually on gagging orders.
Gagging orders are usually used to prevent disclosure of information about how employers and authority at the university have either made racist/sexist/homophobic comments and sexual harassment allegations etc.
Cardiff University has been highlighted, as the university pays above the average amount that is paid on gagging orders, which is £36,000. These figures were obtained in April 2019 by the BBC, as they revealed that the exact number Cardiff University spends on gagging orders is £7,936,000.
2019 has seen an increase in gagging order settlements as there were 74 in 2018/9, compared to 26 in 2016/17. Experts corroborate that non-disclosure agreements are used to protect authority, protecting employers and University managers, instead of protecting students and staff against prejudice and bullying.
University non-disclosure gagging orders relates to Marxism as it highlights how higher education is run more and more like a business. Management want to silence students and staff in order to protect the university as a business institution.
If students hear about discrimination or bullying in a certain university, they’re unlikely to choose to go there. For the university, that means they lose out on all the fees and other revenue that student could bring.
So, rather than invest in resources to create a better work environment (which should include immediately firing lecturers or staff members who sexually harass, assault or otherwise attack colleagues and students) they prefer to cover everything up, pay off the victims and pretend nothing has happened.
Many students and staff already suffer from mental health issues due to the pressures and expectations imposed on them, which is exacerbated by universities’ discrimination against already vulnerable students and employees.
For instance, a lecturer named Amy told the BBC how she was bullied for 6 years by an employer, causing her to develop depression. The University would prefer to pay her into non-disclosure than to protect the well-being of their workers.
These issues need to be revealed and the employers’ misconduct needs to be punished rather than hidden. This is one example of how the ruling class will use money to hide any information that would pose a threat to their power.
If universities were run under workers’ control, we could democratically decide where to invest the millions sitting in the university’s bank account. In particular, immediately investing in mental health funding.
An extremely unsettling example of gagging orders include how victims of sexual harassment/assault are coerced into non-disclosure agreements. For example, an astrophysicist lecturer at the University College of London was paid £70,000 into non-disclosure, regarding her sexual-harassment by a male colleague.
Therefore, it is evident that the University authorities are certainly willing to pay large sums if it helps protect their reputation (income revenue via future students). Students or staff who are victims of sexual harassment, bullying or discrimination are left abandoned.
This exemplifies the interests of the ruling class, as they would prefer to protect their institution and their power, rather than workers and students. We must fight for workers’ control in all universities, where investment is democratically decided, and this culture of bullying and harassment done away with.
Libby Donovan, Cardiff Marxist society