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Catholic U.’s dean of social service quits after controversial tweets about sexual assault allegations

Will Rainford had been suspended for his comments during the recent Supreme Court confirmation debate.

The U.S. Supreme Court. (Erik S Lesser/EPA-EFE)

Catholic University’s dean of social service has quit his leadership post, the school said Wednesday, nearly two months after he posted controversial tweets about women who accused a Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault and misconduct.

Will Rainford, who had been dean since 2013, will remain a tenured associate professor at the university in Northeast Washington and plans to return to those duties after taking a sabbatical in the spring semester, the school said.

The university suspended Rainford on Sept. 28 after his tweets caused an uproar during the Senate debate over Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination. Kavanaugh was later confirmed as a justice on the high court.

Catholic U. dean suspended after comment that ‘degraded’ a woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault

At the height of the Kavanaugh debate, Rainford tweeted skepticism about allegations against the nominee. He made the tweets from an account, @NCSSSDean, that indicated he was the dean of the National Catholic School of Social Service. The account has been deleted.

In one instance, Julie Swetnick had accused Kavanaugh and others of helping to get teenage girls drunk at parties in the early 1980s before the girls were assaulted. Swetnick also alleged Kavanaugh was present at one event where she was gang-raped, but she did not accuse him of assaulting her.

Kavanaugh denied Swetnick’s allegations.

“Swetnick is 55 y/o,” Rainford said on Twitter. “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!”

In another tweet, Rainford made an apparent reference to Christine Blasey Ford, who had accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Kavanaugh denied Ford’s allegation.

“Riddle me this,” Rainford said. “Why would the accuser of Kavanaugh take a polygraph, paid for by someone else and administered by private investigator in early August, if she wanted to remain anonymous and had no intention of reporting the alleged assault?”

Catholic University President John Garvey in late September called Rainford’s tweets “unacceptable” as he announced the suspension.

“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,” Garvey said at the time. “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.”

Rainford apologized at the time for a remark on his Twitter account that he said “unfortunately degraded” one of Kavanaugh’s accusers.

In a letter to Garvey made public Wednesday, Rainford wrote: “After much prayer and discernment, I am submitting my resignation to you as Dean of the National Catholic School of Social Service, effective immediately. I do so with all good will for the University and School. Given the needs of the faculty and direction of the School, I believe a different academic leader is warranted.”

As he returns to the faculty, Rainford added, “I will continue to offer my time and talent to growing the School and the University.”

Rainford referred messages Wednesday to a university spokeswoman, Karna Lozoya. She said Rainford would have no further comment.

Marie Raber, who had been acting dean of social service, will serve as interim dean through the spring semester, the university said.

“I hope this news will help faculty, students and alumni to recognize that University leadership has heard and respected their concerns,” Raber said in a statement.