Villanova University has responded to claims it put a student under pressure to withdraw remarks, after she criticised the university for promoting LGBT Pride Month.
Melanie Diodati, a graduate theology student at the Augustinian university in Pennsylvania, criticised Villanova on Twitter in late June after the university’s athletic department described itself as an “ally of the LGBTQ+ Community”. Diodati said she was “ashamed to attend” the university because it was “ashamed to be Catholic”.
Diodati later tweeted claims that her academic advisor, Professor Jennifer Jackson, had warned Diodati over her Twitter activity.
In the Twitter thread Diodati claimed that Professor Jackson said “I might lose my tuition scholarship” and that “I ought to come back to Twitter and tweet my supposed appreciation and love for the theology department and Villanova as a whole.”
Diodati added that she would transfer to a “much more Catholic” theology course because she did not want to “associate myself with a university that betrays Catholic teaching”.
In response to the Catholic Herald’s request for comment, Villanova’s media affairs department released the following statement: “We can confirm that this student has withdrawn from the University and we wish her all of the best. To clarify, at no point did the University ever threaten to revoke her scholarship.”
The spokesperson added: “Villanova strives to be a welcoming community that respects and supports members of all backgrounds, in keeping with our Catholic mission.”
Speaking to the Catholic Herald in response to the statement, Diodati said she never claimed it was “outright stated that my scholarship would be revoked” but only that it was alluded to as a possibility.
Diodati added that her mother and sister overheard the Zoom call and could verify that Professor Jackson made the following comments about Diodati’s Twitter activity:
“This could really hurt you”; “once professors see these tweets, they may decline working with you”; “your scholarship depends on professors working with you”; “you still need your scholarship right?”; “if you go back and tweet something more encouraging, it will make it easier for you to be placed with professors for your tuition scholarship for the fall semester”.
Diodati said the incident had convinced her that Villanova “is not a ‘Catholic’ institution that I would encourage the young Catholics in my community to attend. Tweeting out my experience was mainly intended to be honest about the university’s campus environment when it comes to true Catholicism.”
Professor Jackson did not respond to several requests for comment from the Catholic Herald.
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