Students create petition due to dissatisfaction with President Tetlow’s response to Fr. Dziak abuse allegations


Screengrab of the petition.

Madeline Taliancich

Student Molly Sullivan created a petition in response to President Tania Tetlow’s April 18 email to students about the sexual assault allegations made against the Rev. Ted Dziak, former Vice President for Mission and Identity.

Sullivan, a sociology and Spanish sophomore, said one of her professors gave students the floor during class to speak on how they were feeling about President Tetlow’s email and the allegations made against Dziak. This conversation sparked her desire to create a petition about her and other students’ frustrations.

“I raised my hand and said I was frankly really disgusted and upset by the email. I thought it was tone deaf and didn’t present the right message about abuse victims and survivors,” she said. Sullivan cited Tetlow encouraging students to seek pastoral care in her email as inconsiderate due to the fact that Dziak was a part of university clergy just three years prior.

Other students in her class didn’t feel the same. Sullivan said one of the only male students in the class said he saw no issue with the email and that as far as students knew, Dziak was a good Jesuit man.

“It was shocking to me. I didn’t realize people still felt that way,” she said of people believing the story of alleged perpetrators over those of victims.

Soon after, Sullivan said other students began to speak up who felt similarly to her and were upset by Tetlow’s email. She said the conversation also shed light on how difficult sexual assault reporting can be at Loyola. This led her to create the petition, “Demand for Increased Accessibility for Reporting Sexual Assault at Loyola University NOLA,” on

“After that conversation, I felt like no real change is going to come unless someone did something,” she said.

The petition lists several demands, including an apology email from Tetlow for her “tone-deaf email,” mandatory and yearly behavioral reporting training for all those at Loyola, and increased access to a behavioral reporting form through a link on LORA and as QR codes in buildings.

The petition has garnered 343 signatures at the time of publishing. Some of the reasons for signing the petition stressed the need for more accountability for sexual assault, that “due process can’t be an excuse for defending perpetrators” and that survivors of sexual assault deserve to be heard, according to the petition.

Although Tetlow said she has yet to formally receive the petition, she said a few students sent emails to her with statements similar to those in the petition.

In her first year as university president, Tetlow said that she instituted mandatory training for all faculty and staff to make clear the importance of reporting under Title IX and that she would be happy to make that a yearly training.

Tetlow said she also likes students’ ideas for increased access to the reporting process and that the university will work on enacting these ideas this summer.

“I want to continue to encourage students to share their thoughts and ideas,” she said. “I have worked to fight sexual assault and harassment for decades, as a lawyer, law professor and advocate, and I am eager to keep improving our efforts at Loyola.”

Environmental science and biology sophomore Zarya Curran was one of the students who collaborated with Sullivan on some of the demands outlined in the petition. Sullivan said Curran had the idea of having a link to the sexual assault reporting form on LORA.

Curran said they had previously helped a friend report someone and that it was difficult to find clear reporting instructions. They also said that sexual assault reporting is made obvious to freshmen at orientation, but that it would be “really, really valuable to have that sort of reacquaintance with the process, especially after we’ve had more time at Loyola.”

Curran echoed Sullivan’s disappointment in Tetlow’s email, citing two specific comments made by the university president.

The first of these two comments in Tetlow’s email encouraged students to “await the facts about the allegations of sexual assault and not rush to judgment, as hard as that can be.”

“A lot of us think that standing with survivors should have been the emphasis rather than the subtext there,” Curran said.

Curran, like Sullivan, said they also found Tetlow’s suggestion in her email to seek pastoral care for support “very hypocritical and kind of insensitive.”

Sophomore theatre arts major Aria Jackson is one of the 343 to have signed the petition. She said she signed after seeing how individuals could be affected by Tetlow’s email, especially those who are survivors of sexual assault on Loyola’s campus.

“I figured that something should change, you know, and we should get as many people on board with the change because the demands that are in the email and that are in the petition are not unreasonable,” she said.

Although not a survivor herself, Jackson said she felt anger at Tetlow’s email and that it felt like it came from a place of wanting to protect Loyola’s reputation rather than validating people in their claims. She said she hopes that the petition will help the university administration understand that sexual assault is a sensitive topic for many and that students’ demands are met.

“I’m hopeful that we can actually have our end goals met and have more accessibility,” Curran said.