A new private university is looking to shake up old traditions and build a new kind of school—one that upholds the values of free speech, free expression, and open inquiry.
- The University of Austin (UATX) is a proposed liberal-arts college that has raised $105 million in venture capital since it was proposed, which was announced on November 8, 2021, by journalist Bari Weiss.
- It has not formally opened to the public yet but taught its first inaugural summer program in June 2022, which it plans to repeat this year. It is looking to enroll its first class of 100 students in fall 2024. It will then seek accreditation.
- University President Pano Kanelos, speaking with The College Fix, says that the new school will reinvent higher education with less administration, no tenure, and no formal education requirements.
Why It’s Important
UATX is being founded in direct opposition to the perceived wokeness of the modern university, bringing in figures who have been washed out of higher education by the tide of politics that turned college campuses like Evergreen State College and U.C. Berkley into hotbeds of riots and vandalism. The university has already received interest from more than 5,000 professors interested in teaching.
“There are several points of commonality among the school’s emergent leadership, but the primary through-line is that just about all of them are persona non grata in left or progressive circles, largely because of disputes over things they have said or done,” says Salon.
The model for the university is also being approached less formally than a traditional university. Professors will not be granted tenure but they also won’t have the same requirements as a normal professor and don’t need a doctorate to teach. “We’re very interested in people who exhibit the kind of passion for inquiry that Socrates had,” says Kanelos. He hopes that removing the internal politics of tenure will allow for more heterodox thinkers to thrive.
“We plan on having the leanest possible administration that is necessary to function as an institution. A university is a community of students and faculty that should be supported at the fringes by these people we call ‘administrators,’” Kanelos told The College Fix.
Reduced administration will make the education process more “lean” and will also allow the university to operate with lower tuition rates.
The announcement of UATX in November 2021 was not met without criticism, as the initial trustees and advisors were represented by figures who are hotly contested culture warriors who have experienced criticism for unpopular opinions, including Weiss, Peter Boghossian, Niall Ferguson, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Kathleen Stock, Larry Summers, and Steven Pinker.
Initial reactions called UATX a “grift,” as MSNBC notes, that takes advantage of culture war hostility and fears about the “illiberality” of the modern campus. Salon notes progressive commentators “launched a stream of satire, vitriol, and more serious accusations at the newly-born institution.”
The New Republic notes the problems of illiberality in academia are overstated and that “its founders aren’t faithfully representing what actually occurs in university classrooms like mine.”