September 28, 2018

Dear University Community:  

Over the past few days I have heard from numerous professors, alumni, and students of the National Catholic School of Social Service who are concerned with a series of tweets written by Dean Will Rainford. 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.

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.  

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.   

Rainford has led the National Catholic Social of Social Service since 2013. It is my desire that he continue to lead the school. But in light of these recent actions I have suspended him as dean for the remainder of this semester. Rainford understands and accepts this decision. Associate Dean Marie Raber has agreed to serve as Acting Dean during that time.

The many letters and phone calls we have received this week have brought up a variety of issues regarding the direction of the school of social work. I have decided to direct a thorough review of these concerns, led by the Office of the Provost. The scope of the review will be to ensure that we have a clear understanding of the concerns, and to identify areas where we hope to see improvement.

I want to reiterate my pride in our School of Social Service. It has been training social workers since 1918. Ours was the third school in the world to offer a Ph.D. in the field — something it first did in 1934. Today it is a top-ranked school with a national reputation for excellence. These are not small accomplishments. I want to thank the entire NCSSS community for their love for and dedication to their alma mater, and for their work as deeply committed professionals who serve the most vulnerable among us in important and life-changing ways.


John Garvey
University President

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