A new private university in Austin, Texas, has raised millions in venture capital in an attempt to stand against what it considers academic orthodoxies.
- The University of Austin has raised $150 million in venture capital, with nearly a third of that coming from established VCs and tech investors—including Netscape cofounder Marc Andreessen. It hopes to raise a total of $250 million.
- The University was first proposed on former New York Times writer Bari Weiss’s Substack in November 2021 and is expected to see its first full classes in the fall of 2024.
- The school has already performed several smaller “Forbidden Courses” summer programs last year and is preparing for another this year.
- Courses for the school will cover topics including cryptocurrency, religion, conservative takes on race and sexual politics, and political theory, as described by conservative thinkers like Edmund Burke and Thomas Sowell.
Why It’s Important
As we previously reported, the University of Austin is a proposed liberal-arts university that has been proposed and popularized by thinkers who argue that the university system has become oppressively progressive for them to speak freely. It is not necessarily breaking new ground, as there are existing universities with a notable conservative or anti-progressive bent, including schools like Hillsdale College and Liberty University.
What sets the new school apart is the demand within the university system for greater academic freedom, as thousands of professors have already contacted the school to ask if they can apply for a position. That interest has drawn the fascination of venture capitalists and tech CEOs, who have begun stepping in to help get the fledgling school off the ground.
The University of Austin has faced significant political backlash for its public statements and hostile stance toward contemporary academia. Many of the school’s leading figures are intellectuals who stand against the core values and stances of the modern academy and defend their work as being more nuanced than culture warriors accuse them of being.
The school has even seen several of its formative thinkers back out of the project—including the former University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer, psychologist Steven Pinker, and founding trustee Heather Heying—who collectively departed over “amicable” disagreements about the values of the institution, Fortune reports.
“We’re not allowed to use the word woke…That’s just not who we are. You don’t build a university to be against things. You build a university because you believe in things. We’re not here to cancel cancel culture: Why would you spend your time doing that? We’re here because we believe in and we have foundational principles: We believe in open inquiry. We believe in freedom of conscience. We believe in civil discourse,” says University President Pano Kanelos. “The world is broken, let’s fix it.”