LEWISTON, N.Y. (WIVB) — Niagara University announced Monday Dean of Students Carrie McLaughlin will be placed on paid administrative leave. More than 1,200 people signed a petition asking that Dean McLaughlin be removed for allegedly mishandling a sexual assault report.
“When Niagara University receives complaints related to sexual assault, we investigate them promptly,” said Dr. Debra Colley, the executive vice president.
The petition was signed by students, parents and alumni. It claims a female student told McLaughlin she was raped by a basketball player and McLaughlin told the student that by coming forward, “she was trying to ruin his career.”
We could not confirm with NU or law enforcement that the rape took place, or was investigated.
“Keep in mind that federal legislation and student privacy consideration prohibit me from disclosing publicly any student’s confidential records,” said Dr. Colley.
Dr. Colley said NU has hired the law firm Lipsitz-Greene to investigate the claims against McLaughlin.
McLaughlin had been placed on paid administrative leave.
“Administrative leave is not punitive, it is a mechanism to ensure matters of grave seriousness can be addressed promptly and thoroughly in respect to all individuals involved,” said Dr. Colley.
University President, Fr. James Maher, also sent an e-mail to students on Sunday night that said administrators have met with the student who posted the petition “to begin the discussion with students about their concerns.”
He went on to say, “I want to directly address the issue of sexual violence and sexual assault referenced in the petition…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.”
According to NU’s reporting procedures, an intake officer is the person who receives the report of sexual assault. “The intake officer also is a resource person for the accused and can provide guidance. If the intake officer determines that there will be a formal charge of sexual assault, the matter will be referred to the office of the dean of student affairs.”
We reached out to the student who posted the petition to have Dean McLaughlin removed. She told us she is not going to talk to the media until the investigation is further along.
Here is the full e-mail from the University President to students:
Dear Niagara University Student,
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.
James J. Maher, C.M.