Catholic University of America dean suspended over pro-Kavanaugh tweet


Zachary Petrizzo, Campus Reform

  • Catholic University of America Dean Will Rainford issued a tweet from his official university account in which he cast doubt on one of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault accusers.

  • CUA President John Garvey later suspended Rainford, saying the school does not take official political positions.

  • But one student argued that by suspending Rainford, the university is taking the side of Kavanaugh’s accusers.

The Catholic University of America is under fire after a dean’s tweet was called out as insensitive to alleged victims of sexual assault. The president of CUA responded by putting the dean on leave for the rest of the semester.

Historically a conservative, Catholic school, students at the university are now polarized by the action against the dean.

According to an article in the student newspaper, The CUA Tower, students are protesting Dean Will Rainford of the National Catholic School of Social Service (NCSSS), who cast doubt on whether President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, is guilty of committing sexual assault.

The tweet came from Rainford’s official university Twitter account, @NCSSSDean, which has now been deleted.

“Swetnick is 55 y/o, Kavanaugh is 52 y/o. Since when do senior girls hang with freshmen boys? If it happened when Kavanaugh was a senior, Swetnick was an adult drinking with&by her admission, having sex with underage boys. In another universe, he would be victim & she the perp!” the tweet, sent on Wednesday, read.

Image: CR -Twitter/Screenshot

In an open letter to the university, Rainford later issued an apology, in which he stated that “my tweet suggested that she was not a victim of sexual assault. I offer no excuse. It was impulsive and thoughtless and I apologize.”

Image: CR- Screenshot

Campus Reform obtained emails that CUA President John Garvey sent to all CUA students. The same statement from the university was later released in a press release.

“The Catholic University of America has no position on the Kavanagh matter. But let there be no doubt that our University, and particularly our National Catholic School of Social Service, has a special concern for every victim and survivor of sexual assault,” Garvey said, in part.

“Rainford’s tweets of the past week are unacceptable. We should expect any opinion he expresses about sexual assault to be thoughtful, constructive, and reflective of the values of Catholic University, particularly in communications from the account handle @NCSSSDean. While it was appropriate for him to apologize and to delete his Twitter and Facebook accounts, this does not excuse the serious lack of judgment and insensitivity of his comments.”

President Garvey concluded by stating that “in light of these recent actions I have suspended him as dean [Dean Rainford] for the remainder of this semester. Rainford understands and accepts this decision.”

Image: CR- Screenshot

But, according to many students, Garvey did not go far enough. Students at CUA organized a protest on Monday to demand Rainford’s resignation.

Rainford’s tweet also resulted in a series of different reaction from alumni and other on Twitter.

According to The CUA Tower, the protesters’ listed five demands, including “the resignation of Rainford,” “for a woman to replace Rainford as dean to better represent the largely-female social work population,” “a public apology from President Garvey,” “an affirmative statement from the university on protocol of sexual assault and harassment,” and “a donation from the University to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).”

“I think the importance of free speech is optimal and that while I believe in being entitled to your opinion, I do think that as an official representative of the university, the dean should have the expectation that his tweets will be linked to the school, and given that the school takes no opinion on the current Kavanaugh Investigation, I do think that it’s inappropriate for him to make comments that imply an opinion on the truth or truthfulness of Ms. Ford’s allegations,” Mason Thibault, a senior at CUA, told Campus Reform.

“Ultimately, I believe the Catholic University is within their right to take action and suspend the Dean as they have now done,” Thibault concluded.

“I applaud school officials for taking a stand against people who make sexual assault a joke. During this time of reckoning about sexual violence, [it] is very appalling to know that men are still making these sorts of comments,” CUA sophomore Sean O’Grady told Campus Reform.

“As a student of CUA, I find this tweet unacceptable and I believe anyone who makes similar comments should be held accountable.”

Matthew LaSalle, a CUA sophomore offered a different perspective in an exclusive comment to Campus Reform: “From the email that President Garvey wrote, he said that the university was not taking any political position on the Kavanaugh confirmation. However, by suspending the dean for a tweet reflecting a political opinion, President Garvey is consequently taking a political position.”

“If the dean had been liberal, and tweeted something that was anti-conservative or tweeted something that blasted Judge Kavanaugh for the allegations, I’d be curious to see if the same repercussions would be applied.”

“More often than not on college campuses, ‘freedom of speech’ seems to be skewed heavily in favor for the left. While maybe it was not appropriate for any dean, or any professor, to tweet a political opinion from an official university twitter account, I’m not sure that a suspension should have been the result of this.”

“I don’t think anyone is condoning sexual assault, and I obviously strongly condemn it, but as a country, we need to find a way to properly use due process in these types of allegations to ensure that we identify the correct people who commit these heinous acts of evil.”

“That being said, I do not believe that people such as the dean should be punished for voicing their opinion and exercising their first amendment right, so long as it does not provoke hate, danger, or slander, just as the first amendment has been interpreted in the court of law,” LaSalle added.

While there has been harsh criticism, Professor Chad Pecknold, a professor at CUA, wrote in a tweet, “Can attest! We are blessed to have Dean Rainford.”

Image: CR- Screenshot/Twitter

Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a powerful conservative, Catholic voice in Washington D.C, wrote in a tweet that “I will never contribute to the annual collection to CU in my parish ever again.”

Image: CR- Screenshot/Twitter

Campus Reform has reached out to The Catholic University of America but has not heard back.

Follow this author on Facebook: Zachary Thomas Petrizzo and Twitter: @Zach_Petrizzo 

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