UPDATE: March 17, 2023
Delaware State University President, Dr. Tony Allen, issued a statement this evening rescinding the decision to require DSU students to sign confidentiality agreements in order to participte in the newly formed Safe Space Coalition. "They (students) deserve our unwavering support in the face of adversity, and if we want them to be a part of the solutions to the University’s most pressing concerns, they need to know that such a process is clear and transparent," Allen wrote.
We look forward to meaningful reform within DSU campus administration and police departments— led by student voices.
[DOVER, DE] — The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware sent a letter to Delaware State University officials today, expressing serious concerns about the school’s use of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) for participants in the Safe Space Coalition. The group was formed to address concerns about campus sexual assault and harassment following weeks of student protests over school officials and law enforcement handling of campus incidents.
The NDAs require students to not speak publicly about any matters related to the Safe Space Coalition. It requires students to “agree to keep absolutely confidential any and all information related to my participation as a committee member,” and provides that “willful and unauthorized disclosure violates University policy” and “will be grounds for adverse action.”
“The Safe Space Coalition exists because students used their First Amendment rights to express concern about an issue of extreme importance to them,” said Mike Brickner, executive director of the ACLU of Delaware. “Students who wish to participate with university officials to address these systemic issues must now keep silent or risk punishment by the school. That’s simply unfair, and undermines the school’s attempt to address these serious issues of campus safety.”
NDAs may particularly impact survivors of sexual assault, leading those with direct lived experience to decline to participate in the Safe Space Coalition.
“One of the major revelations of the #MeToo movement was the widespread use of NDAs by abusers and the institutions that protect them,” added Brickner. “DSU’s use of NDAs perpetuate the culture of silence that has harmed so many survivors of sexual assault, as many survivors may not wish to participate in the coalition because it could limit their ability to share their own personal experiences.”
Delaware State University’s NDAs also threaten to cut off the flow of information for members of the public who have expressed serious concerns about the university’s handling of sexual assault complaints.
“Secrecy breeds distrust, and these strict confidentiality agreements will undermine the public’s trust in school officials to address these issues in a transparent and fair manner,” said Brickner. “Instead, school officials should seek to engage community members with regular updates, and allow members of the coalition to speak openly about the progress that is being made.”
ACLU-DE sent a letter to Delaware State University officials on March 17, expressing serious concerns about the school’s use of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) for participants in the Safe Space Coalition.
More information about the DSU student protests can be found here: htpps://www.aclu-de.org/en/news/dsu-students-demand-campus-police-reform