Eleven days after prosecutors sentenced former Loyola student Ben Holm to 10 years in a Georgia prison for felony charges from a 2013 rape case, Loyola broke its silence by denying it was aware of the charges pressed against Holm during his time at Loyola.
Some students criticized Loyola for its lack of transparency regarding Holm’s case and others said they no longer feel safe on campus. Sophomore Ashley Kennedy created an online petition demanding the university apologize for its silence and work to educate the Loyola community about sexual assault. In one day, the petition garnered nearly 1,200 signatures.
In response to those concerns, Thomas Kelly, Loyola’s Title IX Coordinator, released an email statement to the Loyola community on Dec. 16 addressing Holm’s case and the university’s stance against gender-based violence. Kelly wrote the university didn’t have knowledge of Holm’s charges until Loyola began receiving media inquiries on Dec. 12.
Kelly added that Loyola doesn’t tolerate violence and student safety is a “top priority” for the university.
“Through the work of the Coordinated Community Response Team (CCRT), we continue to educate, provide access to services, and ensure that our campus community is a safe and supportive environment for survivors,” Kelly wrote. “Our Department of Athletics also continues to provide mandatory Title IX training to its coaches, staff and student-athletes, amongst other efforts to ensure our Community Standards are followed.”
Kennedy said she believed Kelly’s statement was a start, but she was critical of Loyola for not mentioning the word, “rape.”
“[The statement] showed that there is power in advocacy and Loyola heard the student voice. I’m glad that they are standing up for people who do not feel [safe on] campus,” Kennedy told The PHOENIX. “However, some of their wording was a bit unnerving … I wish they would have made more of a clear statement about what they will do to dismantle rape culture … Their email doesn’t change the fact that students still feel unsafe on campus. Loyola needs to start prioritizing the safety of students over bad press.”
Kennedy added that it’s uplifting to see students come together and advocate for change.
Kelly encouraged the Loyola community to report gender-based violence occurrences and said the university is looking for ways to protect those who report incidents.
The Athletic Department told The PHOENIX it stresses the importance of consent to its student-athletes and is trying to bring in sexual assault survivors to share their stories.
On April 27, 2013, Holm, who was 18 at the time, raped a 15-year-old girl on a playground at the Country Club of the South in Johns Creek, Georgia, according to the Fulton County District Attorney’s (DA) office.
Holm was initially charged with statutory rape, a misdemeanor in Georgia on Dec. 16, 2014, a year and a half after the attack. Five months later, the charges were upgraded to a felony after an investigation proved there was supporting evidence, according to the Fulton County DA’s office.
Despite the felony charge, Holm returned to campus for a year and a half.
Holm pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and statutory rape on Dec. 5, one week after the trial began and while the jury was deliberating, according to the Fulton County DA’s office.
Holm is not registered for classes in the spring semester, according to Kelly’s email.
Read the full statement from Kelly below: