A Student Was Expelled From Loyola After a Rape Allegation. Then He Walked the Stage at Graduation.

Larissa Paseta | The Phoenix

A male Loyola student was expelled and banned from campus this past April after a school investigation found he raped a female student, documents show.

And yet the following month he was decked in cap and gown, walking across the Gentile Arena stage at graduation, shaking Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney’s hand as his name was called over the loudspeaker, The Phoenix has learned.

The woman who accused him of assault later spotted an online photo of him at the event and said she was horrified. She described his presence there as the latest in a series of indignities she suffered from the school since reporting the man’s misconduct to administrators in 2018.

“I had seen this picture of him at graduation,” said the woman, who spoke to The Phoenix on the condition she not be publicly identified. “So I called the [university] super freaked out, and I was like … ‘He was able to get a cap, gown, get his name up there and walk across the stage and nobody said anything?’”

School officials were hardly apologetic — telling reporters they believe the male student effectively snuck onto stage. But he claims he received an email laying out graduation day logistics, and school officials acknowledge he was listed in the graduation booklet.

Rooney “was not aware who he was” at the commencement, according to Sarah Howell, a school spokesperson. 

“Since he had been expelled, he knew he wasn’t allowed on campus and, as such, he was not allowed to attend the graduation ceremony,” Howell said.

The man’s name was in the graduation booklet, Howell said, because it was published before his expulsion.

“The Office of the Dean of Students is reviewing how this occurred and is working with the schools and colleges to ensure this will not happen in the future to the best of their ability,” Howell said.

Had Campus Safety, the school’s police force, “been notified of his presence, he would have been escorted off campus,” Howell said. 

The accused man spoke to The Phoenix, confirming he’d been expelled from the university. He said “it seems justified” the school expelled him.

He said he “was working under the full assumption” he had the female student’s consent, but in hindsight he realized his “perceptions … were obviously incorrect.”

When asked if he owed the woman — who was his girlfriend at the time of the alleged assault in early 2018 — an apology, the man said: “I do.”

“The fact that I had done anything to make anyone feel like this horrifies me,” he said in the interview.

The Phoenix isn’t naming him because he hasn’t been charged with a crime.

The woman opted not to press charges against him, preferring to pursue her case through the school’s in-house process.

She said she wasn’t interested in hearing from him.

“It’s not like his apology is going to mean anything,” she said. 

Asked whether the school owes the woman an apology for the graduation debacle, Howell said: “I cannot comment on this or any other case.”

‘It’s something that needs to be brought to attention’

Sexual assaults are an all-too-common reality at schools across the country, including Loyola, where just last week The Phoenix reported four new allegations in campus dorms.

But Loyola has consistently faced harsh criticism for the way school officials have handled them, with a rebuke often coming from the very people officials are supposed to be helping — the survivors.

The Phoenix published a story in September about three Loyola students who said they were assaulted by another male student who has since been kicked out of the school. They said they were frustrated with the school’s investigative process, which they argued took way too long and was riddled with problems. That story inspired the woman in this story to come forward and share her experience with the paper.

“I had a very similar experience and I think it’s something that needs to be brought to attention,” she said. “Individually [the university] won’t help students, so maybe if there’s enough [complaints], they’ll be like, ‘Hey, we need to actually support our students.’”

The woman in this case said she met the man accused of assault through a campus club during her first year at Loyola when she was 17 and he was a 20-year-old junior. They started dating, and from the start of their relationship, the woman said he continuously pushed her to have sex with him, beginning the first time they were alone together. 

“Every time I was over at his apartment, it would be a lot of pressure,” she said. “He would frequently ask if we could have sex, and I always was like, ‘No.’ …  He would always push a little bit and the next few months just kept pushing and doing other things I was uncomfortable with.”

After months of pressuring her, the woman alleged he raped her one night at his off-campus apartment in late January or early February 2018.

“One night, I was over there and I kept saying that I didn’t want to, and he just kind of stopped listening and did it anyway,” she said. “I just froze.” 

‘I just felt like there was no one on my side’

Even before the alleged rape, the woman said she wanted to break up with the man, but she said he guilted her into staying. She said she was nervous to end the relationship for many reasons, and was concerned she might lose friends who also knew him.

She said she broke up with him at the end of the spring 2018 semester, several months after the alleged assault. But she still saw him on campus since they had classes in the same hallway, she said. 

She said she hadn’t yet reported the incident to the university, so the school couldn’t put any restrictions in place, such as a no-contact directive, which bans alleged offenders from contacting the person, even through a third party.

“It was awful,” she said. “I would deliberately get to class early and then stay [late] so I didn’t have to see him.”

Aside from that, the woman said the situation strained her other relationships, too.

“I just felt like there was no one on my side,” she said. “I had a friend who was like, ‘No one’s going to believe you, so you shouldn’t report it.’ I felt like I was doing it by myself.”

‘They can’t just keep ignoring problems’ 

When the woman finally reported the alleged assault to the school, she was met with delayed responses and “excuses,” on top of the emotional stress, she said. 

In November 2018, she emailed Tim Love, the school’s point person for sexual misconduct complaints and investigations, and said she didn’t hear back for weeks.

When asked about his slow response, Love wouldn’t comment because he said he’s not allowed to discuss specific cases. 

When he did respond to the woman’s initial email, she said he told her she could file an informal report, which puts the incident on record but doesn’t result in an in-depth inquiry. She said she was also told she could start a formal school investigation, which could end in sanctions for the man, involving anything from writing an essay to getting expelled.

Thinking an informal report wouldn’t make an impact, she said she decided to start a formal school investigation. 

The school’s investigative process has been the subject of scathing criticism in recent years. Some students, including this one, have been vocal about the perceived shortfalls — such as a lack of transparency, timeliness and compassion for those making the accusations. Last spring, the school announced a new office, called the Office for Equity and Compliance, to better deal with sexual misconduct complaints.

In The Phoenix’s September report where the same man was accused by three women, one of those women said an investigator mistakenly sent the accused man an email — containing “sensitive information” — which was meant for the woman.

“I almost wanted to drop [the investigation] multiple times because I was like, ‘I’m so tired of having to deal with this,’” the woman who’s the focus of this story said of the investigative process.

She said she didn’t report the assault to the police because she felt like a criminal investigation would go nowhere.

Only 20 percent of female student victims of sexual violence ages 18 to 24 nationwide report to law enforcement, data shows. Some survivors don’t go to the police because they believe it’s a personal matter, not important enough, or they opt to go through another channel, such as the university, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), a nonprofit anti-sexual assault organization.

The woman in this case said she received an email from the school Dec. 17, 2018, saying the university’s investigation had begun. The entire process lasted about five months — ending in April 2019 — when she was told the man was found responsible and expelled, she said, and which records reviewed by reporters show. Love said he couldn’t confirm the sanctions or timeline of a specific case. 

Love also didn’t respond to a question about how long an average sexual misconduct investigation takes at Loyola.

Throughout the investigation, the woman said the process felt “dragged out,” and she didn’t get responses from employees when she tried to check on its progress. She said she felt like she had to call multiple times and send numerous emails when she wanted to talk to someone or schedule a meeting. 

Some Loyola employees made excuses about why they weren’t responsive, she said.

“They can’t just keep ignoring problems,” she said. “A lot of people in the office were like ‘Oh, we got really busy,’ and [I] was like ‘Okay, and?’ That doesn’t excuse missing this or not replying.”

Love said he doesn’t “recall any significant delays” from this case.

“That’s not what we strive for, we don’t want people to feel that way, but I can’t say with any specificity about this case,” Love said.

Under Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972, colleges have a responsibility to respond “promptly and effectively” to notifications and reports of gender-based misconduct.

While state law doesn’t provide a specific timeframe to complete investigations, the Illinois Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act states “complainants alleging student violation of campus policy shall have the opportunity to request that the complaint resolution procedure begin promptly and proceed in a timely manner.”

While the woman said she was frustrated with some university employees, she sought counseling from Loyola’s Wellness Center and said it was helpful.

In addition to the challenges the woman faced, she said she has a health condition which worsened with the constant stress caused by the investigation.

“All the anxiety and stuff made [my condition] so much worse,” she said. “I was sick, my grades dropped, which stressed me out more.”

When the investigation concluded, the accused student was found “responsible” for assaulting the woman and expelled and banned from Loyola, effective April 12, 2019, documents show. 

“I felt so much better for one day,” the woman said. 

The following day, she said the student facing the allegations appealed the decision, but it was later upheld, according to documents dated April 30 — just days before graduation.

‘I just wish Loyola would come up with a better way to support students’

When the woman went home for the summer in 2019, she said she saw a photo on social media of the accused man in a cap and gown.

He’s seen in a video on the school’s website walking across the stage at a commencement ceremony in Gentile Arena and the booklet from the ceremony lists his name as a graduate, The Phoenix found. 

The accused man said while he attended graduation, he hasn’t received a degree. 

“The ceremony of the graduation process is not the same thing as conferring a Loyola University degree,” Love said, speaking generally.

The man said he was slated to finish classes in December 2018 — around the same time the investigation began. He said he’d earned the 120 credit hours necessary for a degree and wasn’t enrolled in classes in the spring. He had plans to walk at graduation in May 2019, he said, though he never received a degree. 

Loyola students who finish school in December can opt to walk the stage at commencement in May, according to Loyola’s website.

It’s unclear if this student’s ability to receive a degree was put on hold because of the investigation, even though he said he’d received the 120 credits necessary.

He said he received a notification in the spring that he was expelled. A few weeks later, he said he also received an email from Loyola with graduation day instructions, including where to park and where to sit, among other things. This made him think he had the go-ahead to attend commencement, he said.

“That email made me think ‘Oh, okay,’ because I had completed my 120 credit hours,” the man said. “It was only later that I’d found out that was not the case.”

Howell said school officials canceled his name card and pulled his tickets. However, the man said he was given a card and he and his family were able to get into Gentile Arena “without a hitch.”

“Like everyone else did, I showed up, I went to check in, I got my [card] and went to my assigned seat and waited until my roll was called,” he said. “And then I walked at graduation.”

In addition to appearing at graduation, the woman said she heard from other people he had been on campus after he was first notified of his expulsion, despite being banned from the premises. She said she reported both instances he showed up on campus.

Besides graduation, he confirmed he was on campus one other time for a club event during the appeal process.

Because the man appealed the decision, it’s unclear if he was allowed to be on campus for the club event. He said he was under the impression he was allowed because he was appealing the decision.

The man said after each time he was on campus, he was contacted by the school which reminded him of the ban. Love confirmed the school can notify people who aren’t allowed on campus.

“There’s some limitation to what we can do,” Love said. “We could reach out and notify that person and remind them of the ban, we could tell them that they were reported to be on our campus, and we regularly do that.”

However, Campus Safety Admin Commander Tim Cunningham said the university could follow up with a criminal proceeding if school officials have proof the person was on campus, but it’s decided on a case-by-case basis. He wouldn’t comment on the specific case and was speaking generally.

“We could proceed in a criminal way and go that route, or we could do something administratively or we could leave it alone,” Cunningham said. “It’s up to the department that is responsible for saying that person is not allowed on campus.”

The woman in this case — who remains a student — said she doesn’t regret opening the investigation, but wishes Loyola would’ve better met her needs and those of other students.

“After everything, I’m glad I did it,” she said. “I just wish Loyola would come up with a better way to support students. … Just have more empathy.”

If anyone is in need of sexual assault resources, they can call the Loyola Sexual Assault Advocacy line at (773) 494-3810. The National Sexual Assault Hotline is also available 24/7 at (800) 656-4673.

Loyola students can report sexual misconduct to the Office for Equity & Compliance at (773) 508-7766 or use the university’s EthicsLine reporting hotline, Loyola’s system for dealing with different complaints.

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