A group of distinguished scholars, iconoclasts and activists, alarmed “by the illiberalism and censoriousness prevalent in America’s most prestigious universities,”will establish a new university dedicated to free speech.”
It will be called the University of Austin, or UATX. Next summer the project will begin modestly with “Forbidden Courses,” a noncredit program designed to offer a “spirited discussion about the most provocative questions that often lead to censorship or self-censorship in many universities.” The next phase will be masters programs and if all goes well, undergraduate degrees will follow.
The campus, a real one, not a virtual campus, will be set in the Austin, Texas, area. The new university’s president is Pano Kanelos, the former president of St. John’s College in Annapolis. Several famous dissenters from the current culture of woke conformity and campus censorship that has poisoned the university experience in the U.S. led him to this point. Bari Weiss, the exiled Opinion editor for The New York Times; historian Niall Ferguson of the Hoover Institution; Heather Heying, an evolutionary biologist; Joe Lonsdale, a technology entrepreneur and co-founder of Palantir Technologies, the data analytics firm; Lawrence H. Summers, the former Harvard president; Steven Pinker, a Harvard linguist and psychologist; David Mamet, the playwright; and Glenn Loury, an economist at Brown are among those involved.
Naturally, the enterprise has been scorched on social media by students and professors who are dedicated to crushing non-conforming ideas rather than nurturing them.
The university thought it would need six months or more to raise the $10 million in seed money needed for strategic planning and start-up programs. The target amount was raised in just six weeks. The new goal is $250 million. Among other aspects of the school’s mission, the University of Austin will work to create an affordable education, with a yearly tuition of $30,000 or less.
Dr. Pinker, the provocative Harvard professor who will serve on the Board of Advisors, says, “I think new models for a university are important because current universities are locked into a strange business model: exorbitant tuition, a mushrooming bureaucracy, and obscure admissions policies that are neither meritocratic nor egalitarian, combined with plummeting intellectual diversity and tolerance for open inquiry (which is, after all, a university’s raison d’être).”
I suppose “strange” is one word for it. Read the new university’s new presidents’ article about the project here.
I urge everyone to find ways to support this crucial effort, I plan to. Next job: creating a hundred new schools with similar missions.
There is hope.