Future College Professes to Be a Haven for Free Speech

University of Austin will help students develop their views, organizers say
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2021 7:30 PM CST
Future College Professes to Be a Haven for Free Speech
Stock photo.   (Getty/allanswart)

The University of Austin, its founders say, will soon rise up from a Texas campus in opposition to the censorship they believe to be pervasive at American colleges. Students and faculty will be free to present unpopular perspectives, the New York Times reports, starting next summer with Forbidden Courses—an inaugural program featuring professors of varied views who will "help students come up with their own opinions and ideas." The school plans to start master’s programs after that, then add undergraduate courses in a few years.

The founders see a need, citing "the illiberalism and censoriousness prevalent in America’s most prestigious universities." Pano Kanelos, the campus president who ran St. John’s College in Annapolis, wrote this week: "So much is broken in America. But higher education might be the most fractured institution of all." Kanelos said the idea sprang from conversations with Bari Weiss, a former Opinion editor for the Times; historian Niall Ferguson; Heather Heying, an evolutionary biologist, and others. Board members include former Harvard President Lawrence Summers and playwright David Mamet. Some of the organizers have distanced themselves from the rhetoric.

"I do not agree other universities are no longer seeking the truth nor do I feel that higher education is irreparably broken," E. Gordon Gee, an advisory board member who's West Virginia University's president, assured his school. Harvard's Steven Pinker said he's just advising, not teaching. An early hire is Kathleen Stock, who resigned from a UK school after she was accused of being transphobic, per the Independent. The project is on its way to raising $250 million, in addition to hiring and picking out a campus. To keep the cost of a liberal arts education below $30,000 a year, the University of Austin plans to go light on administration and amenities. (More colleges and universities stories.)

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