Controversial figures like Bari Weiss are launching a university they say will pursue ‘truth’ and combat ‘censorship’ from top universities

Texas State Capitol building in Austin.
The University of Austin has established itself minutes away from the Texas Capitol and the University of Texas at Austin.
  • A group of controversial figures is launching a new university in Austin, Texas.
  • They say they want to promote "freedom of inquiry, freedom of conscience, and civil discourse."
  • Bari Weiss and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who have decried "cancel culture," are on the board of advisors.

A group of controversial figures is launching a new college in Austin, Texas, that describes itself as being "dedicated to the fearless pursuit of truth." Several of the founders have said they faced "cancel culture" for their controversial opinions.

"We are alarmed by the illiberalism and censoriousness prevalent in America's most prestigious universities and what it augurs for the country. But we know that there are enough of us who still believe in the core purpose of higher education, the pursuit of truth. That's why we are building UATX," the University of Austin's website reads.

The university will be "a liberal arts university committed to freedom of inquiry, freedom of conscience, and civil discourse," according to the website, which claims that "others have abandoned this core mission of the university."

The school is not yet able to confer degrees and is currently seeking accreditation. Courses will begin this summer, starting with a program called "Forbidden Courses," in which students will engage in "a spirited discussion about the most provocative questions that often lead to censorship or self-censorship in many universities," according to the website.

Founding parties of UATX include Bari Weiss, an outspoken critic of "cancel culture" who left her position at The New York Times complaining of an "illiberal environment," according to her public resignation letter. Kathleen Stock, a professor from the University of Sussex who resigned following complaints of transphobia, is also on the board of advisors for UATX.

Several members of the board of advisors touted the new university on Monday.

Pano Kanelos, the founding president of the new university, said founders expect "to face significant resistance to this project." Kanelos was the former president of St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland.

"There are networks of donors, foundations, and activists that uphold and promote the status quo. There are parents who expect the status quo. There are students who demand it, along with even greater restrictions on academic freedom. And there are administrators and professors who will feel threatened by any disruption to the system," Kanelos wrote on substack.

Advisor Niall Ferguson, a conservative who quit his position at Standford University following allegations that he encouraged Republican students to do "opposition research" on a progressive student in 2018, published an op-ed in Bloomberg.

"Trigger warnings. Safe spaces. Preferred pronouns. Checked privileges. Microaggressions. Antiracism. All these terms are routinely deployed on campuses throughout the English-speaking world as part of a sustained campaign to impose ideological conformity in the name of diversity," Ferguson wrote. "As a result, it often feels as if there is less free speech and free thought in the American university today than in almost any other institution in the U.S."

Ferguson's spouse, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an outspoken critic of "wokeism," is also on the board.

Peter Boghossian, who resigned from Portland State University this September after calling the university a "Social Justice factory," said on Twitter that since UATX was announced, he has "received dozens of pleading emails from faculty around the country" who want to join the effort.

The University of Austin is not to be confused with the University of Texas at Austin, which is about a 60-second walk from where the UATX has set up shop. The University of Austin headquarters is located at 2112 Rio Grande Street in Austin, which is nestled in the off-campus housing area for UT Austin students. A spokesperson from UT Austin did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

UATX is "in the process of securing land in the Austin area for a campus," according to the website. When asked about why Austin was the chosen location for the campus on the site's FAQ page, UATX said: "If it's good enough for Elon Musk and Joe Rogan, it's good enough for us."

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