NEW YORK — An embattled dean at the Catholic University of America’s National Catholic School of Social Service (NCSSS) resigned on Tuesday following a controversial social media posting earlier this semester.
Dr. William Rainford, who joined the NCSSS in 2013, came under fire in September following a tweet he posted during the confirmation process of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh, who faced an uphill confirmation hearing after multiple women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct or harassment, and an allegation was made by Julie Swetnick, a D.C. area web-developer who said that during high school she was the victim of a gang rape in which Kavanaugh participated.
In response, Rainford tweeted: “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!”
His tweet was sent using the handle @NCSSSDean, immediately prompting fierce backlash on campus — including protests and letters demanding his dismissal.
CUA President John Garvey then suspended Rainford, who is a tenured faculty member, sending an e-mail to the university deeming the comments “unacceptable.”
“The Catholic University of America has no position on the Kavanaugh 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,” he wrote on September 28.
“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.”
While Rainford’s suspension as dean was for the remainder of the fall semester, Garvey allowed him to continue to teach his scheduled courses and noted that it was his desire for Rainford to resume his duties as dean following the suspension.
In subsequent weeks, however, the controversy still loomed large on campus, and on Wednesday the university announced that Rainford had resigned his post as dean, and that, following a sabbatical during the spring semester, he would resume his duties as a full-time member of the faculty next academic year.
“I am truly blessed to have had the privilege to serve as dean for the last four years,” said Rainford in a letter addressed to Garvey. “I am grateful to you for the opportunity. I resign with the knowledge that as a faithful Catholic, I have contributed my time and talent in ways that have benefited the university and the Church.”
In response, Garvey paid tribute to Rainford’s tenure as dean of the NCSSS, writing: “He has improved the quantity and quality of our research, launched a successful online program, and hired a number of committed and impressive young faculty.”
“I commend Dr. Rainford’s commitment to the Catholic mission of the school,” he continued. “Early on he made a particularly difficult decision to disassociate from the National Association of Social Workers, which advocates for access to abortion, a position that is contrary to the mission and values of The Catholic University of America.”
Previously, Rainford served as director of the Worden School of Social Service at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas, and is a long-time volunteer with Catholic Charities USA.
A press release from the university on Wednesday said Garvey would consult with a committee formed in the wake of Rainford’s suspension to discuss the future work and mission of the school to “address the challenge of maintaining a distinctly Catholic approach to the field of social work.”
The announcement also said that Dr. Marie Raber, who was named as interim dean following Rainford’s suspension, will continue to serve in the post through the spring semester.
“I hope this news will help faculty, students, and alumni to recognize that university leadership has heard and respected their concerns,” she said.