Former St. John’s College president Pano Kanelos partnered with numerous prominent academics and thinkers to found the University of Austin.
Universities should exist to defend “the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable,” according to Kanelos. He argued that the “fear” and “censoriousness” once thought “possible only under oppressive regimes” may “become endemic in a free society,” including in American universities.
“Our democracy is faltering, in significant part, because our educational system has become illiberal and is producing citizens and leaders who are incapable and unwilling to participate in the core activity of democratic governance,” Kanelos wrote in a Monday Substack post.
Universities focus increasingly on administration and “client-driven ‘student experiences’” rather than helping to students build “intellectual grit,” he argued.
Leaders of the University of Austin plan to host “traditional, in-person classes” and a curriculum that “will combine a world-class, core liberal education with focused immersion” in “research centers, which will be more akin to interdisciplinary think tanks than traditional ‘departments.’”
“We expect to face significant resistance” from “networks of donors, foundations, and activists that uphold and promote the status quo” to the new university project, Kanleos wrote. “We welcome their opprobrium and will regard it as vindication.”
Academic figures joining the university include Steven Pinker, Deirdre McCloskey, Jonathan Haidt, Tyler Cowen and more, in addition to four presidents of existing universities. The project also includes non-academic “doers,” including Sohrab Ahmari, Caitlin Flanagan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Bari Weiss, Arthur Brooks and more
Dorian Abbot, Kathleen Stock and Peter Boghossian, professors who publicly resigned or otherwise faced professional repercussions for challenging left-leaning views in academia, will also reportedly join the University of Austin.
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