After Alleged Arson, College Says Students Top Priority

College of St. Elizabeth vice president said the case is being handled by the proper authorities.

A College of St. Elizabeth official said restrictions barring a student facing arson charges from the Florham Park campus were put in place by law enforcement, and school has not yet taken internal action against the student.

The defendant, 18-year-old Mykia White-Johnson of Plainfield, allegedly lit two rolls of toilet paper on fire in the bathroom of a fourth-floor dorm. College staff identified the source of the smoke and doused the toilet paper rolls in the sink before police and fire officials arrived, according to a police statement.

White-Johnson allegedly told a police officer she started the fire in O'Connor Hall, and reportedly told the officer she was under stress because she was doing poorly in her classes and indicated she was acting out against the school, according to an arrest affidavit. She also allegedly said it was an accident and did not intend to hurt anyone, the affidavit says.

Deborah McCreery, vice president of Institutional Advancement, said the college is not able to comment on individual students' grades because of federal privacy laws. She said the college has systems in place to reach out to students if there are issues affecting them.

"The college has a long history of dedication to the health and welfare of our students. They are and always will be the first priority," she said.

Asked if the incident was unsettling, McCreery said she imagines it could have been unsettling for students, but students are back in class, resuming activities and class work as normal.

"We have a very caring culture that puts students and students' welfare first," she said. "We're thankful to the Florham Park Fire Department and Police Department for their prompt response. It's now being handled by the proper authorities."

Fran Sullivan, communications specialist for the college, said 122 students were in O'Connor Hall when the smoke alarm went off at 11:58 p.m. Wednesday. They evacuated safely and quickly, and returned to their rooms in less than an hour, after firefighters cleared smoke from the bathroom, she said.

The College of St. Elizabeth has about 2,100 students, including full- and part-time graduate and undergraduate students. About 370 students live on campus in O'Connor Hall and Founders Hall.

Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi and Florham Park Chief of Police Patrick P. Montuore announced the arrest in a joint statement Friday. and Bianchi said authorities took immediate action because fires on college campuses can have a "catastrophic impact."


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