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Today’s blacklisted American: University tells student it will block her speech, even off campus and on her private time

Elisa Carroll: censored by Villanova
Villanova student Elisa Carroll

They’re coming for you next: Villanova University recently told one of its students, Elisa Carroll, that it has the right to stop her from distributing pro-choice literature or contraceptives, even if she is doing it on a public sidewalk off campus and on her own time.

Carroll, recognizing that as a religious college Villanova would not provide contraceptives for its students, wanted to make them available anyway. She also recognized that she should not do it on campus, in order to respect the university’s stance. Instead, she decided to set up an unaffiliated organization that would offer such things close to but off-campus.

The university decided this was still unacceptable, and moved to forbid it.

Villanova Director of Student Involvement JJ Brown told Carroll the university would prevent her from distributing the contraceptives on a public sidewalk near campus. Brown told her that given the sidewalk’s proximity to campus and because Carroll is a Villanova student, the university could prevent her from promoting any contraceptive advocacy organizations there, including by handing out contraceptives.

In response, Carroll asked for help from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), which immediately fired off a letter to Villanova, telling it in no uncertain terms the illegality as well as the immorality of its threat.

While Villanova is not a public institution obliged by the First Amendment to protect free expression, it independently promises students “freedom of inquiry” and that the university “encourages the open exchange of ideas on a variety of subjects, including those that are controversial.” From these commitments, students like Carroll will reasonably assume they will not face punishment for speech protected by the First Amendment—the foremost legal standard concerning free expression.

The letter went to further point out that, even if Villanova didn’t encourage free inquiry on its campus, it had no legal right to try to stop Carroll from speaking when she was off campus and acting on her own time. If it didn’t like what she was doing, the most it could do was to respond publicly. As the ACLU used to say when it actually worked to defend free speech, the only right response to bad speech is more speech.

At this time we only have Carroll’s side of the story, so FIRE also added this caveat to its letter:

The following is our understanding of the pertinent facts. We appreciate that you may have additional information to offer and invite you to share it with us.

It might be that Carroll’s plans were not as innocent as they now seem. Villanova however will have to prove this, with evidence. Right now, it appears this college attempted to censor Carroll illegally.

Though this story is simply another example of the intolerant culture than now dominates once-free America, the different sides involved illustrates how widespread that culture has become. Unlike most of the blacklist stories I have covered in the past two-plus years, the victim here is not conservative, but on the left, and her oppressors are religious and conservative instead.

No matter. Freedom of speech means freedom of speech. Just because Carroll’s advocacy is in favor of birth control, a major pillar of leftwing politics, does not mean Villanova has the right to silence her. It does not, and to attempt to do so when she is not on its property is especially egregious.

This urge to control others has got to stop. If America is the land of the free and the home of the brave, we need to stop being so afraid of other points of view.

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  • I would submit that Villanova’s action is at least in part motivated by ‘representation’: a member of an organization is expected to represent that organization’s values. I do not think Villanova is entirely wrong, here. But the precipitous decline in American tolerance and the corresponding ascendant social tyranny demand a strong response. Perhaps Villanova can publicly recognize Ms. Carrol’s Constitutional rights, and she could play nice and move a bit further from campus.

  • John Fisher


    Respectfully, if the facts are as presented, no. Free speech is not negotiable or tradable for ‘good feelings’. Villanova may regulate on campus speech and behavior in accordance with the law and their contracts with students. What happens off of the boundaries of their campus is none of their concern.

  • Cotour

    Related, because it is all related:


    “Janet Yellen Claims U.S. Taxpayers Have ‘Duty’ to Defend Ukraine’s Border from Invasion”

    While Americas Southern border has been purposefully opened and illegals in the millions are essentially encouraged by the president himself (D) to flood OUR country, Janet Yellen (D) thinks Americans have a responsibility to defend the Ukraine’s borders, but not Americas border. Now you think about that for a minute or two and tell me what you think should be done with both her and the president and Mr. Myorkis.

    Looks like a duck, smells like treason to me.

    Just one more “America must be destroyed” Globalist operative within the Democrat party machine that is selling you, me and every other American out. And if we do not remove these bastards from their positions of political power sooner rather than later, they will succeed.

    And don’t get me wrong, IMO send the Ukraine money and material in order that THEY can destroy Putin and his aspirations as long as we do not have to do the fighting. But they are weak and incompetent, they react they do not act, as in actual leadership.

    Biden has signaled that both China and Putin should make their power moves. Very, very dangerous.

    Hmmmmm, now who in that position of political power actually projected strength, leadership and American power interests where neither adversary would make that move?

    Sorry, I can’t think of anyone, I am coming up blank. Can you? (Are you paying attention yet America?)

  • Stephen from MARYLAND

    While I wholeheartedly support all of our Constitutional Rights, would it not be appropriate and legal for the University to expel her for not upholding Catholic moral teaching? Obviously that is a last resort. I would hope that the University has counseled her on the negative health and societal effects of contraception as outlined by numerous past Popes. The freedom to have sex without consequence of pregnancy has led to a plethora of evil effects. I pray that in light of the Dobbs decision all people will engage in more healthy and serious relationships.

    From Wikipedia: “Villanova University is a private Roman Catholic research university in Villanova, Pennsylvania. It was founded by the Augustinians in 1842 and named after Saint Thomas of Villanova. The university is the oldest Catholic university in Pennsylvania and one of two Augustinian institutions in the United States.”

  • Sippin_bourbon

    Is this issue about the advocacy for contraception, or the distribution.

    There is a difference between speech and action.

    The other question is did she sign an agreement with the school regarding moral behavior. I am not aware of the admission policy. Most religious ed institute s have a requirement for their employees. Again, it may not be because of speech, but actions.

    I will await Villanova’s response.

  • dan

    this evil woman may as well be offering BOGO coupons at the transgender clinic, or free crack pipes and/or “clean” needles and condoms……..this has nothing to do with free speech. Just as no real American would allow a drug dealing street ape to enter their living room to sell crack, why should this private university allow an evil woman to push baby slaughtering?

  • Cam

    Time to kill all education officials …..

  • Col Beausabre

    My question is she using the name Villanova in her activities? If so I think the school has a legitimate complaint that she is then implying that she represents it. Of course, you can then reply why doesn’t it take action against a restaurant (for example) calling itself the Villanova Deli. The rejoinder, I think it is that the deli is not engaging in an activity that is against Catholic teachings.. Be interesting to see the facts come out. BTW, Villanova is a Jesuit school. The Jesuit Order was founded to lead the Church’s intellectual counterforce to the reformation. It still recruits the brightest of Catholic clergy. I would not underestimate them or how well they have thought this through.

  • Jamie

    “On her own Time”, are you kidding me. The University is not a workplace, you pay for a service if anything it’s Quid-Pro-Quo. They can be sued, especially for threatening off campus actions that bring “Involuntary Servitude” to mind.

  • pzatchok

    If Villanova is like our local university it actually owns the sidewalks immediately adjacent to the central campus. She might have just been on the wrong sidewalk or refused to go to a public sidewalk because they were too far away.

    She knew what type of school she applied for. If contraception was so important why go? Unless….

    If everything is as this report says I do not agree with the university sanctioning her.
    But I am sure the university has a good legal team and I am sure they were informed and asked about this before anything was done. So I get the idea something else is going on here.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Col B.

    The modern day Jesuits are nothing like the Jesuits of old…
    Most are quite liberal, and quietly work against traditional RC teachings.

  • JerryM1957

    Col Beausabre, Villanova was founded and is operated by the Augustinians. Nearby St. Joes University was founded and is operated by the Jesuits.

  • Alec Rawls

    Villanova might be in violation of its contractual obligations (using internal college processes to punish a student for free speech activities that it’s suggested would be allowed), but I don’t see how it can possibly be doing anything illegal by telling this girl they’re going to kick her out if she doesn’t adhere to Catholic doctrines that the college upholds.

    Villanova also has first amendment rights, which include the right of free association. They do not have to allow anybody in as a student who they don’t want to. They can certainly make adherence to Catholic doctrines a condition for attendance. They do have to abide by their contracts, but that is a civil matter, not a criminal one.

  • pzatchok

    “While Villanova is not a public institution obliged by the First Amendment to protect free expression,
    it independently promises students “freedom of inquiry” and that the university “encourages the open exchange of ideas on a variety of subjects, including those that are controversial.”

    This is not a guarantee of freedom of speech. This wording allows the students to question but does not allow them to freely pass on information. They are not instructors. Nor are they approved by the administration to do so.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Interesting how this thread turned out.

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