Catholic University students protested Monday, objecting to a dean whose comments on social media last week questioned allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh.
More than 100 students, alumni and others gathered on campus to “demand dignity for survivors of sexual assault, and to reject victim-blaming in all its forms,” according to their shared announcement of the campus protest. They demanded the resignation of William C. Rainford, dean of the National Catholic School of Social Service, because of “a series of disturbing tweets. The tweets not only mocked a survivor of a campus sexual assault, but also suggested a scenario in which she was instead a perpetrator.”
“He has lost the confidence of the vast majority of students,” said Anthony Hain, a student in the master’s program at the school, “as well as a growing and large number of alumni.”
Catholic’s president, John Garvey, said Friday evening in an email to the campus that the remarks “demonstrated a lack of sensitivity to the victim," and announced that while it is his wish that Rainford continue to lead the school, Rainford’s remarks were unacceptable. As a result, Garvey said, the dean would be suspended for the semester.
Rainford apologized Thursday for a remark he said “unfortunately degraded” a woman who had accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. He deleted his social media accounts.
Rainford did not respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for the school did not immediately return a request for comment Monday morning.
Forty-five students walked out of classes Thursday, objecting to Rainford’s tweets.
Rainford’s tweet about one of the women, Julie Swetnick, who recently accused Kavanaugh of past sexual misconduct, offended many students and graduates.
“Swetnick is 55 y/o,” Rainford posted Wednesday on his @NCSSSDean Twitter account. “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!”
Swetnick said in an affidavit that Kavanaugh was present at a house party in 1982 where she alleges she was the victim of a gang rape.
Kavanaugh has denied her allegation and those of two other women who accused him of misconduct.
Hain said liberal and conservative Catholic students have joined the protest because “it goes to the heart of the program [Rainford] leads and social work ethics.”
The school trains students to work with survivors of sexual assault, Hain said, and teaches them to treat as credible people who come forward. “It’s the therapeutic nature of what we do. The dean violated that and turned it around," Hain said.
Several faculty members said they planned to attend and support the protest because they believe the tweets fit into a pattern of behavior by Rainford that they described as insensitive and thoughtless.