Near the main campus of The University of Texas at Austin is a huge yellow brick home with red trim located in the West Campus area of Austin. Inside is the administrative offices of a brand-new liberal arts college that is being established in response to what its founders see as a widespread trend toward campus censorship.
They Say Colleges Are Censorious. So They Are Starting a New One.
An advertisement for the University of Austin that was tweeted out first thing Monday morning declared, “We’re done waiting for America’s colleges to fix themselves.” Therefore, “a new one” is being initiated.
And it’s not just because Austin is the capital of Texas and the university wanted to set up shop there.
The website for the new university proclaims, “If it’s good enough for Elon Musk and Joe Rogan, it’s good enough for us.” Musk, CEO of Tesla, and Rogan, a podcast host, have both just migrated to Austin, Texas from California.
The founders of the University of Texas at Austin wanted to establish a “fiercely autonomous” institution to counteract what they saw as a growing trend of “illiberalism” on campuses and a decreasing commitment on the part of institutions to uphold the values of free speech and civil conversation.
Former president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, Kanelos, believes that institutions are not doing enough to “reclaim a place for open debate,” and that this new university can serve as a “north light” for this to happen.
Scholars “may never find the truth,” he remarked, but that’s what they do. If you’re worried about getting in trouble for making a mistake, it’s difficult to do that.
Kanelos claimed that Austin was chosen as the site of the institution because of its appeal to “creative minds and mavericks.”
He remarked, “Austin is basically one giant maker space now.” There is a lot of cerebral stimulation from being close to all of that space.
New University has Gotten a Great Deal of Financial Backing
According to Kanelos, the new university has gotten a great deal of financial backing, with enough money raised in two months to hire roughly seven people. With its official release on Monday morning,
However, there is a long way to go before the school can function like a real university. Although its organisers have stated that they are in the process of securing land in the Austin region, the university does not yet have a permanent campus address, degree programmes (the first undergraduate degree is not expected until the autumn of 2024), or accreditation (founders believe the standard accreditation process needs reform, but acknowledge oversight is necessary so degrees are considered legitimate).
They also haven’t been granted official tax-exempt status by the US government. They have found temporary non-profit sponsorship through Cicero Research, led by tech investor and advisory board member Joe Lonsdale of Austin.
Cicero Research’s tax return for 2020 states that the organization’s goal is to “produce and distribute non-partisan educational materials about the importance of preserving Texan policies, values, and history” and “create and distribute non-partisan documents recommending free-market based solutions to public policy issues.”
With reduced administrative expenditures and fewer amenities than a conventional college campus, the University of Austin’s website offers a new, more inexpensive tuition model.
According to Kanelos, the annual cost of attendance at such a private university would be “$30,000,” or almost $50,000 less than the national average. The founders hope to gather $250 million over the next five years to fund the launch of the undergraduate and graduate courses.
Kanelos Warns that neither Cutting-Edge Recreation Facilities nor Gourmet Dining can be Anticipated.
He predicted that we will have an outside soccer field and basketball court. There is no food court. We’re bringing back the cafeteria line system from the ’50s for one simple reason: the students foot the bill.
The university will begin its Forbidden Courses non-credit programme in the upcoming summer. Topics that “frequently lead to restriction or self-censorship in many institutions” will be open for discussion, and students from other schools are welcome to join. Peter Boghossian and Kathleen Stock are two of the three founding faculty members working on the program’s design right now.
Boghossian left Portland State University because, in his words, “a bastion of free inquiry has transformed into a Social Justice factory.” Following harassment and criticism for her research questioning whether gender identity is more important than biological sex, Stock resigned from her position at the University of Sussex.
The undergraduate degree programme wouldn’t begin until the following fall, but a master’s degree programme in entrepreneurial leadership would begin this coming academic year.
In addition to this announcement, leaders at the University of Texas at Austin have been working with private donors and Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to establish a new think tank on campus “dedicated to the study and teaching of individual liberty, limited government, private enterprise, and free markets.”
The Liberty Institute has Already Received $6 Million in Seed Money From the Texas Legislature.
The University of Texas at Austin has pledged $6 million as well.
The Tribune has obtained emails between UT-Austin President Jay Hartzell and at least one member of the University of Austin’s advisory team through a public records request.
The emails reveal that Hartzell and Lonsdale, an Austin-based tech investor, had lunch together earlier this year. Through an email exchange in the month of February, Hartzell introduced Lonsdale to UT-Austin professor Carlos Carvalho, who was heading up the Liberty Institute there.
The University of Texas at Austin and Lonsdale declined to comment. Although Kanelos has met with those at UT-Austin who are working on the Liberty Institute’s launch, he maintains that the institute’s aims are not reflective of those of the university he hopes to establish.