Between 2020-2023, the University of Exeter has spent £121,176 on settlement agreements to resolve staff academic and professional employment disputes in addition to tribunal claims over instances of bullying and harassment, reveals a Freedom of Information request put out by Exeposé.
The University confirms that none of these settlement agreements were used to resolve instances of sexual assault.
Within the three years, there have been six instances where settlement agreements and COT3 settlements have been used to resolve bullying and harassment. The Information Governance at the University maintains that “The specific circumstances of each case are complex and, in some cases, involve a range of concerns, not just allegations of harassment or bullying.”
The University needs to do more to create an environment respectful for staff and students.– Brian Rappert, EUCU President
Brian Rappert, President of the Exeter branch of the University and College Union (EUCU), issues in a statement to Exeposé: “As worrying as the settlement figure is, it only speaks to a small portion of bullying and harassment at the university. The EUCU seeks to redress such cases on a regular basis, the majority of which never result in a settlement. The University needs to do more to create an environment respectful for staff and students.”
A spokesperson for the University of Exeter has said: “The University has a standard confidentiality clause – agreed with the University’s legal advisers–which is included in any settlement agreement which the University agrees to enter into with individual employees.”
The University has a standard confidentiality clause – agreed with the University’s legal advisers–which is included in any settlement agreement which the University agrees to enter into with individual employees.– Spokesperson for University of Exeter
They continued, “While we cannot comment on individual cases, allegations of harassment and bullying were not upheld following an investigation.” In some instances, employees were “requested to leave under settlement terms.”
The spokesperson indicates that all investigations use internal investigating officers trained by ACAS, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, which is used to improve workplace relationships, and external investigating officers.
In 2022, following the signing of a nationwide pledge to end the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) for students to silence sexual assault victims, Vice-Chancellor Professor Lisa Roberts commented that “The University of Exeter is committed to not using Non-Disclosure Agreements to silence people who come forward to raise complaints of sexual harassment, abuse or misconduct, or any form of harassment and bullying.”
This pledge has been honoured when it comes to students, with the University stating the agreements are not used concerning student complaints of harassment and bullying. However, the pledge did not extend to faculty.