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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

New university creates space for debate, but it's not 'safe'

The new University of Austin -- the first class of 100 undergrads starts in fall -- wants to be a "pluralistic community" for discussion, debate and inquiry, not just an "anti-woke" haven for right thinkers or libertarians, president Pano Kanelos told me when I visited in December.

I write about the new enterprise in Education Next.

“It’s easier to build something new” than to change existing institutions, says author Michael Shellenberger, who'll teach about politics, censorship, and free speech. An extreme lefty turned “hard to classify” pro-nuclear environmentalist., he thinks “the moment is right.”

One might say the moment is perfect. The rich have revolted: “Pissed-off billionaires” and miffed millionaires are pledging not to give any more money to Harvard, Penn, Dartmouth, and other elite universities. They’re urging wealthy friends to close their checkbooks, too.

University of Austin students, who will be chosen on the basis of test scores, grades, and a willingness to take a chance on something new, will not be offered an intellectual "safe space."

Professors will not be offered tenure.

The university will not take positions on political issues. There will be no DEI administrators.

Will students end up tenting on the quad? Well, there's no quad either. University of Austin has leased a downtown building. Students will live in apartments and shuttle to campus.

There will be no football team. Students will be encouraged to organize extracurricular activities.

Higher ed is big. The University of Austin will start small, and even if it's wildly successful, will remain small for many years. But “it proves what’s possible, plants a flag, and provides a welcoming, scholarly home for influential heterodox scholars," says Rick Hess, education policy director at the American Enterprise Institute.

Also in Education Next, Preston Cooper explains the regulatory red tape that makes it difficult, time-consuming and expensive to launch a new university.

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May 08

The real question for the university is whether the school accepts Pell Grants. If not, then it falls into the Hillsdale/Biola category to train future staffers for extremely conservative politicians or it the school does, then there is a long list of rules that it must comply with.

Also, it is easy for a hanger-on school to not offer anything other than classes when there is a huge state flagship university in the same city.

May 08
Replying to

Cross-enroll, no. And being private schools, Concordia and St. Edwards are significantly more expensive than UT, so I suspect that any student at such universities that could get admitted to UT would just transfer.

Except during exams, UT's libraries are generally open to the public as long as you behave yourself (I still use the UT Law Library occasionally), although you cannot check out anything without a UT ID and there may be some collections that require a UT ID to access.


May 08

Like a mesquite tree, growing in a crack of the pavement.

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