Niagara University Dean Put on Leave After Mishandling Rape Case

Carrie McLaughlin, the dean of New York’s Niagara University, has officially been placed on leave after being accused of mishandling rape allegations. The announcement follows an online petition that called for McLaughlin’s removal, made by fourth-year Liberal Arts student Sarah Joslin.
According to Joslin’s petition, McLaughlin has a history of inadequately dealing with students who suffered from sexual assault.

If you ask almost every student on campus, they have a negative story about how Carrie handles students’ issues. One of the biggest problems on any college campus is sexual assault. A young woman was raped on our campus by a basketball player, and Carrie told this young woman that by coming forward with the fact that she had been assaulted, she was trying to ruin his career. Ruin. His. Career. Many students heard about this situation, and since then have refused to come forth about their own situations regarding sexual harassment and assault. We cannot have someone in the position of Dean of Students who does not make survivors feel safe and comfortable in telling their stories. We just can’t.

Joslin also mentions that the basketball player mentioned in the story above continues to play at Niagara University and still has a scholarship. Since its creation, hundreds of people have signed their support.
Niagara University’s Executive Vice President Dr. Debora Colley released a lengthy statement on the debacle Monday, announcing McLaughlin’s temporary removal. Colley wrote that she had been placed on administrative leave and that an outside law firm had been hired to investigate the claims.
However, Colley does mention that McLaughlin is not being punished; being placed administrative leave only ensures an unbiased investigation.
Here’s the full statement:

We are committed to our Title IX obligations and we abide specifically with and exceed all of the guidelines presented by New York State’s Enough is Enough legislation. When Niagara University receives a complaint related to sexual assault, we investigate it promptly. This includes allegations that an employee or office has mishandled a matter. We will investigate these concerns immediately, and ensure that our community is made aware of the next steps. Niagara University has a well developed sexual assault policy that provides multiple methods of reporting assault and trauma. This is to enable students to feel safe throughout the process. If a student does not feel comfortable reporting to a certain member of our staff, she or he has other options both on our campus and off campus as well. Every sexual assault report triggers an immediate support response, an anonymous report to federal authorities as required by the Clery Act, a report to the university Title IX officer, and an offer to the victim to file a report with law enforcement. Please know that law enforcement notification is solely at the discretion of the victim, but we always encourage that such notification be made. In keeping with our Catholic and Vincentian mission, Niagara University strives to inspire respect for the God given dignity of every person and of all faiths. The issues we’re speaking of here today are very serious and of grave concern. I would encourage everyone to consider our institution’s core value of respect for every person as we work with our students to address their concerns. These are extremely confidential matters. With information and allegations being made online and in social media, we ask the campus community and entire community to keep in mind the federal legislation and student privacy considerations prohibit Niagara from publicly disclosing and particular student’s confidential record. This includes those related to student conduct. However, a lack of detailed information about a specific incident should never be misconstrued as a lack of action. Again, Niagara’s overriding concern is the safety and well being of our students. Thank you.

University President Fr. James Maher emailed the student body a day before saying administrators had met with Joslin “to begin the discussion with students about their concerns.” The following is his email describing what happened:

By now you may have heard about an on-line petition calling for the removal of the dean of students.  This petition raises many concerns and I want to assure you that all of them will be addressed.
Today I write to you as the President of Niagara University, however, please know that I came to this position with more than 25 years of experience within higher education, including my work within student affairs. Through this experience, I continue my abiding commitment for the facilitation of the development of all students.
Our university is guided by our Vincentian and Catholic mission.  We strive to inspire respect for the God-given dignity of every person and all faith traditions.  I encourage us to consider Niagara’s core value of respect for every person as we work together as a campus community to address the concerns raised by our students.
Yesterday afternoon, the Executive Vice President, the Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, and the Assistant Director of Campus Activities met with two students, one of whom is the writer of the petition, to begin the discussion with students about their concerns. 
While these issues are being investigated, I want to directly address the issue of sexual violence and sexual assault referenced in the petition. The university takes all such matters very seriously, as it does our responsibility to provide an environment where all members of the community can feel safe.  Students should know that there are multiple ways of filing complaints relative to sexual assault, including but not limited to; the office of counseling services, campus ministry, campus safety, residence life, and the office of human resources. Additionally, our faculty are available to serve as a resource for you.
It is critically important for our campus community to be aware of these resources. I would ask you to share this information with your fellow students, should it be helpful to you or them in anyway.
In moving forward as a university, again I ask that we let our mission guide us, and we respond compassionately, and focus on the God-given dignity and respect of every member of our campus community.
As you begin this week of examinations, I want to assure you of my fervent prayers and best wishes for you.

According to a student at Niagara University (who requested anonymity), the VP of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, Dr. Kevin Hearn, was specifically mentioned in the petition before the meeting. After the meeting, his name was promptly removed due to what the student referred to as an “intimidation tactic” from faculty.
“Students have a right to a safe space on all college campuses,” the student explains, “And the right to demand that when we come to our school officials regarding serious situations, that we are treated with dignity and respect. That we aren’t left feeling like criminals and too afraid to come forward after leaving the offices of administrators who were put in place to protect us. That is was drove us to create this petition and demand a drastic change on our campus. We do this because we love our institution and we believe that they can do better with the right people in place.”
Aside from the signatures and verbal assertions that McLaughlin harassed and belittled students who raised concerns, students have also showed their support on social media.

With everything that’s going on in the world and technology expanding to something bigger and better, students have a voice more than ever before. Kudos to Sarah Joslin and her fellow supporters for sticking up for what they believe in. Big changes are on the way.

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