LEWISTON – An online petition posted late Friday night by a Niagara University student, demanding the removal of the dean of students, garnered more than 600 signatures in the first 24 hours.
The petition, started by Sarah Joslin on the website change.org, calls for the ouster of Marjean C. “Carrie” McLaughlin because she allegedly took the side of a basketball player accused of raping a female student on the Niagara campus. Neither the player nor the student were named, and there was no information on when the incident allegedly happened. The university did not confirm whether or not it occurred.
By Sunday afternoon, more than 800 people had signed the petition.
The petition said, “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 tweeted about noon Saturday that as a result of her petition, she had been scheduled for a meeting with campus administration. “That was so fast,” she wrote.
In a prepared statement, Executive Vice President Debra Colley confirmed the meeting had occurred and said it included herself and Kevin Hearn, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs.
The statement said, “We are committed to continued conversation and will continue to do our best to protect all our students from assault and also from the misinformation that may arise from allegations. Finally, we evaluate all matters of employee conduct and we will be reviewing the matters in question in partnership with our staff and students.” Joslin did not reply to a tweet from The Buffalo News asking her for more comment.
Her petition charged that McLaughlin, who has been dean for four years, “does not care about her students. She does not care about survivors. She makes students feel uncomfortable and therefore things are happening that the school should know about but doesn’t because she has created a toxic environment. It’s time that Niagara University students took a stand together.”
Colley’s statement said, “The first priority of Niagara University is always the safety and well-being of our campus community, including all students and employees. When a sexual assault is reported to us, it is our policy to investigate the incident to the fullest extent, and we meet and exceed our Title IX obligations, as guided by New York State’s ‘Enough is Enough’ legislation. The university takes matters of sexual violence and sexual assault very seriously and uses all available resources, including local law enforcement, when appropriate and with the permission of alleged victims, to fully investigate and adjudicate allegations.”