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Niagara completes investigation on sexual assault protocol

WBFO News file photo

An outside investigation reports that Niagara University followed appropriate procedures in dealing with  allegations of campus sexual assaults. However, the university is not re-installing the official who lost her position over the controversy. WBFO's Mike Desmond explains.

The probe started after a student went on social media to accuse Dean of Students Carrie McLaughlin of taking a basketball player's side after a female student alleged he raped her. It blew up into a major campus issue even though no rape report was ever filed with law enforcement.

Attorney Barry Covert led the investigation. Though federal law bars him from saying if there was a rape allegation, Covert said the university fully cooperated in the probe.

"We were given full access to relevant electronic communications. We were given the ability to interview any witnesses that we wanted to interview in relation to those matters," Covert said. 

"We interviewed well over 50 individuals as part of our investigation and we found that the university did conduct a full investigation into the sexual assault or Title 9 matters."

Federal title 9 controls handling of matters like this and Covert says that law and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act mean he can't say anything about what the investigation turned up.

In a written statement, Niagara said McLaughlin won't be reinstated as dean of students but doesn't say if she will remain on the university payroll.

“The university’s primary concern is always the safety and well-being of our students and the entire campus community,” said the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University. “We consider all student allegations and concerns seriously, and we remain committed to our Title IX obligations. We abide by and exceed guidelines presented by New York State’s ‘Enough is Enough’ legislation and we will continue to work with our students and the campus community, as well as with our external partner agencies, to educate our community in an effort to provide a safe living, learning and working environment.”


Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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