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Catholic University of America suspends dean for tweeting his disbelief in…Julie Swetnick, the least believable of Brett Kavanaugh’s three sexual-assault accusers

October 31, 2018

Photo: Religion News Service courtesy of Steve McKenna

My latest for First Things:

It’s a shocking and ultimately sad story: The Catholic University of America has summarily suspended William Rainford, dean of its school of social work, simply for tweeting his disbelief in…Julie Swetnick, the least believable of the three women who emerged during the last days of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s protracted confirmation hearing to accuse him of decades-old sexual wrongdoing.

Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez at least had some surface credibility, although their stories of sexual assault by Kavanaugh could not be corroborated, even after an FBI investigation in Ford’s case. But Swetnick’s lurid tale of attending multiple gang-rape parties from 1981 through 1983 at which Kavanaugh—then a teenage student at Georgetown Preparatory School in Maryland—had pawed numerous girls and plied them with booze and Quaaludes was so outlandish that even some Senate Democrats wished privately that Swetnick and her notorious lawyer, Michael Avenatti, had stayed in the woodwork. Most damaging to Swetnick was the fact that she herself had graduated from high school in 1981—what was she doing at high school parties?

It was exactly that aspect of Swetnick’s yarn that Rainford latched upon on Twitter. His September 26 tweet read: “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!”

Valid points all, and made by others who thought Swetnick’s insertion of herself into the anti-Kavanaugh cause damaged it. But this is not the kind of thing that goes over in a school of social work—a profession notorious for its permeation by knee-jerk political correctness (the 1997 ethics code of the National Association of Social Workers requires them to advocate for “social justice,” which typically means fashionable progressive causes). So the day after Rainford’s tweet appeared, some 40 CUA social-work graduate students walked out of their classes in protest and issued a petition that demanded, among other things, that Rainford resign immediately and be replaced by a woman, since the profession of social work is overwhelmingly female (the 40 protesters included only five men). The petition also demanded a public apology from CUA’s president, John Garvey.

Garvey promptly capitulated. He did not fire Rainford, but he did state that Rainford would be suspended for the remainder of the fall 2018 semester. Rainford, who had already apologized and deleted his Twitter account, “understands and accepts this decision,” Garvey wrote.

Garvey had good grounds for disciplining Rainford. Although the dean’s Twitter account was apparently a personal one, he had used the handle @NCSSSDean, which implied CUA’s official endorsement of his own personal views. High-level university administrators should undoubtedly refrain from staking out controversial political positions—much less make jokes about them—in public. But that was not the tack that Garvey chose to take. Instead, he characterized Swetnick—and by extension Ford and Ramirez—not as an accuser but as an actual “victim” of a sexual assault that had actually taken place, presumably by Kavanaugh. Garvey wrote:

“The tweets called into question the validity of some accusations of sexual assault made against Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Of deepest concern to me is that they demonstrated a lack of sensitivity to the victim…. 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.”

In choosing to so characterize Swetnick, and by extension, Ford and Ramirez, Garvey not only leapt to a conclusion that has no firm factual basis, but committed CUA itself to crediting unsubstantiated allegations against a federal jurist of impeccable professional and personal reputation—who is also a committed Catholic….

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

From → Uncategorized

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