On November 21, 2023, a former student filed a lawsuit today against Syracuse University, alleging the school ignored warnings that one of its dorm counselors and residence hall directors was preying on and sexually abusing male students using his position of trust and supervision in a Syracuse dormitory.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in New York under the Adult Survivors Act, which allows previously time-barred claims to move forward. The lawsuit claims that then-residence hall deputy director, Conrad Mainwaring, repeatedly sexually abused the plaintiff, identified as John Doe in the 21-page complaint, in Mainwaring’s on-campus residence in Brewster Hall and then Watson Hall.
The suit includes allegations that Syracuse failed to investigate and act upon reports of sexual abuse involving Mainwaring and created a safe harbor for him to use his position of authority to prey on students, exposing John Doe and others to an unsafe and abusive on-campus living environment.
“Our client enrolled at Syracuse with the belief that the school would provide a strong educational experience and help him forge a successful future. Instead, he was psychologically manipulated and sexually abused for two years before the university forced him to take a leave of absence,” said Elizabeth Fegan, founding partner of FeganScott, the firm representing the plaintiff. “Not once did Syracuse inquire why his grades had plummeted or why he had dropped out of all his extracurricular activities. Syracuse ignored reports of Mainwaring’s serial predatory behavior, and signs that he was preying upon our client, which caused serious and lasting trauma.”
According to the complaint, Mainwaring began grooming John Doe within his first couple of weeks on campus as a resident of Brewster Hall, escalating contact and abuse over the following months under the guise of mentorship and legitimate therapeutic treatment.
The complaint alleges that the abuse continued, increasing in frequency and intensity, and that by the end of the second semester of his freshman year, John Doe was suffering from serious mental health issues as a result of the psychological and sexual abuse, which forced him to drop out of all his extracurricular activities.
“We intend to show that Mainwaring used his position to groom and later sexually abuse our client, while the university – which had a responsibility to oversee the conduct of its dorm counselors – did nothing,” Fegan said. “The school’s inactions allowed an abusive environment to fester and grow, at the expense of John Doe’s physical and mental health, as well as countless other students, including students on the track and field team, where Mainwaring was an assistant coach.”
The lawsuit goes on to detail the toll the continued abuse and manipulation took on John Doe’s mental health, affecting his ability to focus on his studies, which in turn, led to Syracuse asking him not to return to campus after his sophomore year. Mainwaring even suggested that John Doe should commit suicide in order to cope with his emotional distress stemming from the abuse.
According to the complaint, Syracuse could have prevented John Doe’s injuries. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that in one instance, a year prior to John Doe’s enrollment at Syracuse, a student reported Mainwaring’s predatory behavior, but Syracuse did not respond. Media reports also show that Syracuse had been warned by a track and field coach of Mainwaring’s actions. However, no steps were taken to remove Mainwaring from his position as dorm counselor or coach.
“It’s clear that Mainwaring’s abuse goes far beyond our client,” Fegan said. “By allowing Mainwaring to remain in his position as a dorm counselor and a coach, despite reports of abuse that directly implicated him, Syracuse put hundreds of students in harm’s way. And by allowing him to quietly leave Syracuse, Syracuse put other young men in harm’s way of this serial predator. We intend to hold the university accountable for this negligence and to seek a small measure of justice for our client, whose life was profoundly damaged by Syracuse’s failings.”