Is higher education really broken and can the University of Austin save it? |

The President of UATX courageously attacks institutions as he prepares to launch on a platform for the pursuit of truth without accreditation.

Mitchell Kmetz / Unsplash

Pano Kanelos, president of the newly created but still very raw University of Austin, has challenged the rest of higher education.

In a Substack blog by former New York Times Editor Bari Weiss, he writes: “Many universities no longer have the incentive to create an environment in which intellectual dissent is protected and fashionable opinions are questioned. … The higher education fails with 4 out of 10 students. A system that brazenly gets so much out of so many without keeping its basic promises is overdue for a settlement. “

That bill, says the former president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, will come from a coalition of forces – senior leaders and presidents, journalists and intellectuals – dedicated to the creation of this new, for the time being unaccredited university, whose mission is to ” Striving for Truth and Freedom ”and the end of the abolition of culture.

“So much is broken in America,” says Kanelos. “But higher education could be the most broken institution of all.”

Kanelos directly attacks the current state of post-secondary education and learning, saying that institutions have become illiberal and incapable of ensuring “freedom of inquiry and civil discourse”.

So the University of Austin (aka UATX) will be bringing back traditions that Kanelos says have disappeared from modern campuses, including the physical campus itself (although it admits that it will complement some courses with online classes). The university is looking for both land to build and funding to help turn its private, nonprofit liberal arts dream into reality, though it says it has seed money to get started and $ 250 million in funding to back up.

“We’re old-fashioned,” notes the university on its FAQ page. “We believe that people think and learn better when they gather in special places where they are to some extent isolated from the everyday struggle for survival and where there is no fundamental difference between teachers and students. beyond the scope of their knowledge and wisdom. “

The learning process is slated to begin in the summer of 2022 with the launch of a credit-free test program called “Forbidden Courses”, an open invitation to dialogue between current university students to combat censorship and participate in “proactive disagreements”. Later in 2022, a 12-month graduate program in Entrepreneurship and Leadership is scheduled to be launched before introducing graduate programs in Politics and Applied History, and Education and Public Service in 2023.The extension could include STEM-based programs as well as Ph.D. Programs and a law school.

“We assume that we will encounter significant opposition to this project,” said Kanelos. “There are networks of donors, foundations and activists who maintain and promote the status quo. There are parents who expect the status quo. There are students who are calling for it, along with even greater restrictions on academic freedom. And there are administrators and professors who feel threatened by any system disruption. We welcome their shame and will see them as justification. “

Regarding admission, UATX says: “We are looking for highly intelligent students who are intensely curious about the world past and present and who want to take on a leadership role in its future. These are students who courageously and fearlessly want to face the most pressing questions of human existence, but also want to work with scholars and entrepreneurs on the main problems of humanity in a practical way. Our university is not for everyone, and certainly not for most of them. If you are looking for a summer camp, you will not be happy with UATX. “

But it says it will not use race, gender, class, or identity in its decision-making process.

The support to get it off the ground

While UATX is still waiting to hear from the Internal Revenue Service about its tax-exempt status, it is accepting donations through a sponsorship of data management consultant Cicero Research, “a tax-exempt company organized under Section 501 (c) (3) . “Based in Salt Lake City. Given the long time it often takes for institutions to be accredited, UATX believes the process will happen sooner rather than later, according to accredited partners, and also says that the accreditation process needs to be “reformed”.

This cheeky style seems to be the hallmark of this university which promises to be “very independent – financially, intellectually and politically”.

UATX project supporters include Weiss, Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution Niall Ferguson, evolutionary biologist Heather Heying and entrepreneur Joe Lonsdale, as well as several professors who have resigned or been under attack for controversial public statements – Dorian Abbot of the University of Chicago, and the philosophers Kathleen Stock of the University of Sussex and Peter Boghossian of Portland State University.

The group is also said to include a number of university presidents, including Robert Zimmer of the University of Chicago, Harvard University President Emeritus Lawrence Summers, Gordon Gee of West Virginia University, and John Nunes of Concordia College.

In response to the surprise announcement that he would be a university advisor and face backlash on social media, Gee told the WVU community, “Let me make it clear that I am fully committed to West Virginia University have. I have no intention of putting my energies anywhere else. However, I have never shied away from sharing my thoughts on how higher education can and must improve if we are to have a positive impact on people’s lives. I have always said that we need to improve quality while reducing costs and that we must always be a place of free expression and dialogue.

“Taking on an advisory role doesn’t mean that I believe or agree with everything that other advisors share. I do not agree that other universities are no longer searching for the truth, nor do I feel that higher education is irreparably broken. I don’t think that’s the case at West Virginia University. “

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