“An anti-Woke University that is also a Bible college for libertarians.”
A new opportunity to bring financial gain to academic imprimaturs much like William Bennett’s whale impression. The market for RWNJ grifting among the Professional-Managerial Class has thus expanded to Liberty University - style philanthropy, sans the cabana boys.
A major in ‘applied history’ alone seems intriguing, if anything it’s likely a ‘forbidden course’. The Oath Keepers and Erik Prince should run their ROTC program. When Texas secedes it will need a national university with a monopsony on truth. Because no other university is dedicated to it.
Will the university football team be called Robber Barons (rejected by Stanford), The Fighting Charles Whitmans (an open-carry son of Texas), or 6-Million Dollar Men (because of Lee Majors’s TV character Stephen F., “Steve” Austin). Even if the sports teams aren’t named after Steve Bannon’s “Far-Right Gladiators”, it will likely have a football stadium like the University of Phoenix’s.
Our Forbidden Courses summer program invites top students from other universities to join us for a spirited discussion about the most provocative questions that often lead to censorship or self-censorship in many universities. Students will become proficient and comfortable with productive disagreement. Instructors will range from top professors to accomplished business leaders, journalists, and artists.
"UATX is committed to freedom of inquiry as the precondition for the pursuit of truth," the website said. "Others have abandoned this core mission of the university."
The university is not yet accredited and does not offer degrees, but it's planning to start its first course in the summer, called "Forbidden Courses," which it claims will offer "a spirited discussion about the most provocative questions that often lead to censorship or self-censorship in many universities."
It plans to launch a graduate program in entrepreneurship and leadership in 2022, while adding additional graduate programs in politics and applied history, along with education and public service, ahead of the 2024 addition of undergraduate programs, according to a timeline on the university's website.
The university says it's "in the process of securing land" for a physical campus in Austin, adding its classes "will be almost exclusively in person."
$250 million. That's how much the website said the university needs to raise for a successful launch. The website claims it will not accept public funding.
WHAT WE DON'T KNOW
It's not clear how much students will be charged to attend. "We're developing a financial model that streamlines administrative costs, which would allow us to provide lower tuition," the website said.
The announcement of the new university was widely lambasted on social media by left-leaning activists, with many pointing out the lack of solid plans for the university's future at this point. "Trump University at Austin," tweeted journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, referencing former President Donald Trump's unaccredited university that folded in 2011 amid investigations for illegal business practices. Hannah-Jones is best known for developing the controversial 1619 Project for the New York Times as a journalism project which uses slavery as the focal point for telling U.S. history. The project was later developed into an educational tool for schools, and has been criticized on the right for its role in spreading “critical race theory” to schools. Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize in 2020 for her work on the project despite concerns from historians who questioned its historical accuracy.
The new university was also criticized for its claim that it will somehow offer an unfiltered truth not present on other college campuses. E. Gordon Gee, who's president of West Virginia University and was named to the University of Austin's board of advisors, said in an open letter on Monday that being on the board "does not mean I believe or agree with everything that other advisors may share." "I do not agree other universities are no longer seeking the truth nor do I feel that higher education is irreparably broken," Gee wrote.
In general, it has more in common with Masterclass, the fake online “school” where you can pay a few hundred dollars to have Carlos Santana teach you how to noodle an electric guitar into submission, than with any actual university.
On Monday morning, the self-canceled former New York Times editor Bari Weiss tweeted: “We got sick of complaining about how broken higher education is. So we decided to do something about it.” Attached was a link to a piece Weiss had published on her Substack by former St. John’s College president Pano Kanelos announcing the proto-formation of the innocuously named University of Austin—a new, as-yet-unaccredited, and largely half-baked “college” intended as a rebuke to America’s existing system of higher education, where wokeness runs amok and students throw professors who use the wrong pronouns into gulags. (It may or may not have been inspired by a fictional university from the Tom Green vehicle, Road Trip.)
Kanelos’s post at least attempts to make the case for a new, unwoke university: There is too much self-censorship on college campuses, he claims. Conservative students are shunned, while right-wing professors are driven out by pitchfork-wielding mobs. There were other statistics marshaled that spoke to more academic concerns—40 percent of college students do not finish college, for instance—but the University of Austin does not seem to have a plan for how to effect change. It does, however, have a plan to launch itself as a college where no speaker will ever be disinvited.
The university is being backed in part by the Cicero Institute, a libertarian think tank funded by Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale. (It would not be so surprising if Lonsdale’s buddy Peter Thiel endowed a chair, if not more.) Despite Lonsdale’s deep pockets, the website largely consists of a plea for money from any wealthy donors who might also like to stand athwart history yelling stop. For the low sum of $3 million, you can have a chair for a faculty member named after you; for $100 million, you can live forever (or at least until the university collapses amid infighting six years from now) by having an undergraduate college in your name. There is, at this point, no campus, though the website does helpfully note that the university is hoping to raise between $25 million and $100 million for land in Austin. And why Austin, you ask? The university’s website notes, “If it’s good enough for Elon Musk and Joe Rogan, it’s good enough for us.” That statement alone tells you everything you need to know about the student body the university is hoping to attract.
Much is made about the University of Austin’s insistence on “free inquiry” and its dogmatic commitment to free speech. But despite the wider critique of higher education’s obsession with identity politics, the University of Austin appears to be more invested in these questions than any college or university I can think of—even Oberlin. Two of its three founding faculty members, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Kathleen Stock, have been criticized for Islamophobia and transphobia, respectively. Far from being an institution freed from the concerns of identity politics, it’s far more likely that the University of Austin will relentlessly burrow into issues of identity—the nail these hammer-wielders already see everywhere. This, coupled with the nod to Musk and Rogan, suggests that, rather than free inquiry and debate, what you will get at the University of Austin is a student body intent on nothing more than owning the libs—and making bombastic and likely offensive claims about issues of race and gender. It’s Liberty University but for the unwoke—except, of course, so is Liberty University. Perhaps this is a more apt description: The University of Austin is a Bible college without the Bibles.
Applied History course:
The new law school dean:
This week, leaders of the venture they are calling the University of Austin proclaimed that elite American higher education had “abandoned” true freedom of inquiry and that they were going to do something about it. The future school’s supporters include a who’s who of “anti-woke” pundit provocateurs, including David Mamet, Bari Weiss, and Steven Pinker. Its backers said it was about “the fearless pursuit of truth.” Critics called it “slapdash,” a hypocritical insult to American higher education; the more extremely online among them had a comedy field day with the premise. (“IS THEIR MASCOT A SAD LITTLE MAN MADE OF STRAW?” asked novelist Daniel José Older.)
The history of American higher education is littered with attempts to break away from the restrictions of traditional elite colleges. For a full century, conservative activists of different stripes—religious, free enterprise, anti–cancel culture—have dreamed big, hoping to build dramatically different institutions to salvage what they perceive as “truth” and proper teaching. By far the most prominent network of dissenting conservative institutions was a breakaway network of religious schools—conservative evangelical Protestant colleges that got their start in the “fundamentalist” movement of the 1920s. Their story can offer lessons about the perils and possibilities of such efforts, even though the specific ideological goals of these schools were quite different from those of the University of Austin.