Non-disclosure agreements disempower student consultants

The non-disclosure agreement (NDA) integrated into the AMS’s Recognition Policy won’t empower equity-seeking students.

The most recent AMS Assembly passed the Recognition Policy, which intends on compensating students who volunteer to consult with the AMS on equity topics. The policy is intended to clarify to the AMS where equity work is necessary and to reduce its burden on otherwise uncompensated marginalized students.

The policy’s aim of amplifying equity-seeking voices is promising. There is, however, one crucial flaw—student consultants will be required to sign an NDA prohibiting them from sharing any information they disclose to the AMS in the consultation process.

Implementing NDAs along with the Recognition Policy won’t allow students to discuss their experiences with members of the equity-deserving communities they represent.

The NDA will preclude students from receiving a level of support and understanding that only peers—and not the AMS—can afford them.

Discussing with peers the incidents they plan to report could help students voice to the AMS what corresponding action their community would like to see taken. Severing communication between student consultants and the groups they represent promotes inefficient activism and burdens individuals with trying to represent the interests of an entire community.

Individuals deserve to have ownership over their experiences. Stripping student consultants of the right to retell events from their own lives reinforces the disempowerment they’ve already encountered.

NDAs can include complex legal jargon confusing for many students. Imposing this language on people in an already intimidating position, undergoing and recounting discrimination, reinforces their vulnerability and the relative power of the AMS.

As of now, the AMS hasn’t released any information about the NDA. If it’s enacted as part of the Recognition Policy, not publicly sharing the contract’s terms could deter potential student consultants insofar as it conceals the legal action the AMS could take against them if they violate or are accused of violating the NDA.

The stated purpose of the NDAs is to ensure information available to the student body is factually correct, but restricting student consultants could cause too little information to be shared with students and the AMS.

With NDAs in place, the AMS could easily fail to act on student reports without anyone’s knowledge or the threat of public accountability because consultants couldn’t share their experience anywhere else.

Both the legal complexity and the imbalance of power NDAs create may dissuade students from consulting with the AMS, even in exchange for compensation. In discouraging student consultants, the absence of a safe procedure for reporting discrimination will result in the AMS not receiving information about the needs of equity-seeking groups.

To remedy any apparent skepticism Queen’s students have about the AMS’s genuine investment in equity work, the AMS should aim to be as transparent as possible in broaching the topic. Requiring students to sign legal documents promising their silence about encountering discrimination fails to foster trust or open communication.

For the good of the Recognition Policy and those it aims to protect, student consultants must retain power over their own stories.

—Journal Editorial Board


AMS Assembly, NDA, recognition policy, transparency

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