Cicero

Sometimes the universe drops one perfect, insane thing into our laps. A Monday morning gift, to bring us all joy and laughter in this difficult moment. And friends, it has delivered today, bigtime.

Feast your eyes on The University of Austin, Texas, an institution of higher learning aiming to "reclaim [...] a place in higher education for freedom of inquiry and civil discourse."

The project was announced this morning on Bari Weiss's substack, of course. Because what better avatar of campus free speech than a person who rose to prominence trying to get a pro-Palestinian professor fired from Columbia University for making her feel intimidated?


"So much is broken in America. But higher education might be the most fractured institution of all," writes Pano Kanelos, the recently retired president of St. John's College, in the post titled "We Can't Wait for Universities to Fix Themselves. So We're Starting a New One."

On our quads, faculty are being treated like thought criminals. Dorian Abbot, a University of Chicago scientist who has objected to aspects of affirmative action, was recently disinvited from delivering a prominent public lecture on planetary climate at MIT. Peter Boghossian, a philosophy professor at Portland State University, finally quit in September after years of harassment by faculty and administrators. Kathleen Stock, a professor at University of Sussex, just resigned after mobs threatened her over her research on sex and gender.

Really? Is that how it went down?

Along with anti-Muslim activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Boghossian and Stock are touted as "Founding Faculty Fellows" at the "school." Although the term "school," much less "university," may be something of an exaggeration, since the entire enterprise appears to consist of a historic home that most recently served as a law firm in Austin -- still serves? unclear! -- and support from a recently established 501(c)(3) organization funded by a Palantir asshole.

Peter Boghossian was an assistant professor at Portland State University when he participated in the publication of a series of hoax papers in low-level academic journals. The point of the exercise was to show that "grievance studies" were eroding serious scholarship. The university found that he'd violated academic and research standards and imposed limitations on his responsibilities, after which he quit in a huff and joined the Cancel Culture Welfare Train.

As for Stock, she pissed off students by consistently and publicly arguing that trans women are men who should be excluded from women's spaces. The school stood by her, but she quit in the face of massive criticism. Luckily she's now found a safe space with Boghossian to say whatever stupid shit pops into her mind without fear of people telling her that it's rude, or harmful, or retrograde, or just plain wrong. They'll be joined by luminaries such as Andrew Sullivan, New York Post columnist Sohrab Amari, and of course Weiss herself.

In the interest of fairness, we should acknowledge that the "school's" Board of Advisors boasts dozens of academics from elite institutions, as well as think tanks such as Brookings and Hoover — a lineup that doesn't exactly support the thesis that "many universities no longer have an incentive to create an environment where intellectual dissent is protected and fashionable opinions are scrutinized." But perhaps it's a fool's errand to go looking for intellectual consistency (or honesty) from a bunch of professional martyrs who invoke Cicero and Plato while claiming to have selected Austin because, "If it's good enough for Elon Musk and Joe Rogan, it's good enough for us." (They clarified that it's because Austin is cool and pro-business. OK.)

The "school's" website is just an Easter egg hunt full of delicious crazy surprises. Just check out their intensively well-considered academic curriculum:

"WHY IS YOUR ACRONYM UATX?" asks the FAQ.

"U is for 'university.' ATX is a popular configuration for Austin, Texas," it responds, seemingly oblivious of the fact that universities are commonly understood to offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees, and at the moment UATX offers neither.

Not to worry, though, because they're seeking accreditation, which usually takes years, but "Our conversations with our accredited partners lead us to believe that we'll have a much shorter time frame than that."

In the meantime they're offering a summer program called Forbidden Courses wherein "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." No one's going to call you a dickhead here if you advocate for the repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act or argue that public accommodation laws are a grave intrusion on individual liberties!

Also, Wonkette's writers will be forgiven for reading about a summer program called "Forbidden Courses" and immediately making jokes amongst ourselves about Bari Weiss's Austin Swinger's Club And Non-Woke University School.

Anyway, this school is not like other girls universities because its financial model is different.

We're completely rethinking how a university operates by developing a novel financial model. We will lower tuition by avoiding costly administrative excess and overreach. We will focus our resources intensively on academics, rather than amenities. We will align institutional incentives with student outcomes.

But, what do those words mean, exactly? Check out this disclaimer.

At present, UATX is fiscally sponsored by Cicero Research, which is an exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations for UATX made through Cicero Research, our fiscal sponsor, for its university project and are tax deductible for income, gift, and estate tax purposes. UATX has applied for and is awaiting a tax-exempt determination by the IRS.

Riiiiiiight. Okay, so they're funded by some libertarian venture capital dickhead who co-founded Palantir and is looking for greener pastures now that Silicon Valley is finally waking up to the fact that just because you can doesn't mean you should. Anyway, send in your (maybe?) tax-deductible donations now.

Funny enough, the saviors of American culture seem singularly uninterested in those institutions of higher learning where students aren't being bombarded with supposedly woke culture. In fact, only one of the board members appears to be affiliated with a state school at all. Presumably students could escape from those tyrannical liberals ruining private academia by traveling 100 miles east from Austin to Texas A&M in College Station, where they could get a quality education for just over $12,000 as in-state residents. Indeed, there are similar institutions in every state of the union. But then this crew couldn't pocket thousands of dollars for every useless credit hour of intellectualized retrograde bigotry. You know, allegedly.

And anyway, these anti-elite elites likely wouldn't wipe their asses with a public school, much less a community college. Which is perhaps why they're so incredibly full of shit.

OPEN THREAD.

[Bari Weiss substack]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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