The inexcusable, insufferable idiots coming to Austin

See updates through November 22, 2021, at end of post.


If Sarah Jones didn’t convince you that the self-styled “University of Austin,” absolutely not to be confused with the University of Texas at Austin, is a “Bible college for [capitalist] libertarians,”[1] a look at some of the names in the New York Times article on the forming institution might. We are apparently to believe that people like Niall Ferguson, Larry Summers, and Steven Pinker are “edgy.”[2] They aren’t. They’re simply inexcusable, insufferable idiots.

Perhaps even more telling is that its first program will be a Master’s in “entrepreneurship and leadership,”[3] which you may probably safely translate as a Master’s in Business Administration. That isn’t very “edgy” either and decent arguments exist for abolishing, rather than creating, business programs.[4] At the very least, there should be cognitive dissonance in treating capitalism as a “witch[] who refuses to burn,”[5] but such are the paranoid fantasies of those who live in perpetual terror for their “property rights.”

That’s not at all even remotely to say there isn’t a problem,[6] but while it’s one thing, and an entirely laudable thing at that, to advocate academic freedom and free speech, it’s quite another to purvey old, utterly discredited, and even ludicrous ideas and then to invoke those values in their defense.


Update, November 13, 2021: Joe Lonsdale, whom I’d never heard of, is another name behind the University of Austin. A venture capitalist, he is the school’s fiscal sponsor through his Cicero Institute. Remembering[7] that Elon Musk is moving to Texas,[8] Theodore Schleifer doubts the institution will have significant difficult raising funds to get running in the state.[9] Musk should be smarter than this, but he’s stupid enough about enough other stuff that I certainly can’t rule it out.


Update, November 15, 2021: I think Tina Nguyen[10] and I[11] are pretty close to being on the same page on the University of Austin. Like Theodore Schleifer,[12] she thinks the money behind this school will be sufficient to purchase accreditation,[13] which of course is not at all what accreditation is supposed to be about. Add this to the list of ills besetting modern academia.


Update, November 22, 2021: Geoff Shullenberger ‘defends’—some might call it damnation by faint praise—the University of Austin by writing that more prestigious institutions commit the same sins and further, that as the University seeks accreditation, it will have to play by the same rules and thus confront the same difficulties.[14] This would seem to amount to an indictment of academia as we know it and certainly, no one can doubt that it has its problems, particularly with academic freedom,[15] particularly with racism and other forms of bigotry.[16]

It’s safe to say that the University of Austin is not, even remotely, a solution to these problems. If indeed Shullenberger is correct to point to accreditation[17]—a worthy, and I think necessary, idea that suffers greatly in implementation[18]—then the question of an alternative becomes all the more compelling.

  1. [1]Sarah Jones, “Who’s Afraid of Higher Education?” New York, November 8, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/article/bari-weiss-university-of-austin-nothing-new.html
  2. [2]Anemona Hartocollis, “They Say Colleges Are Censorious. So They Are Starting a New One,” New York Times, November 8, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/08/us/ut-austin-free-speech.html
  3. [3]Katherine Mangan, “A Planned University ‘Dedicated to Truth’ Will Welcome ‘Witches Who Refuse to Burn,’” Chronicle of Higher Education, November 8, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/article/a-planned-university-dedicated-to-truth-will-welcome-witches-who-refuse-to-burn
  4. [4]Steven Conn, “Business Schools Have No Business in the University,” Chronicle of Higher Education, February 20, 2018, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Business-Schools-Have-No/242563; Johann N. Neem, “Abolish the Business Major!” Chronicle of Higher Education, August 13, 2019, https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/2019-08-13-abolish-the-business-major
  5. [5]Bari Weiss, quoted in Katherine Mangan, “A Planned University ‘Dedicated to Truth’ Will Welcome ‘Witches Who Refuse to Burn,’” Chronicle of Higher Education, November 8, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/article/a-planned-university-dedicated-to-truth-will-welcome-witches-who-refuse-to-burn
  6. [6]David Benfell, “The death of academic freedom,” Not Housebroken, November 8, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/11/08/the-death-of-academic-freedom/” target=”_blank”>https://disunitedstates.org/2021/11/08/the-death-of-academic-freedom/
  7. [7]Theodore Schleifer, “Who’s Funding Bari Weiss?” Puck News, November 12, 2021, https://puck.news/bari-weiss-tim-draper-vance-masters-thiel/
  8. [8]Faiz Siddiqui, “Elon Musk announces Tesla is moving its headquarters from California to Texas,” Washington Post, October 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/10/07/musk-tesla-texas/
  9. [9]Theodore Schleifer, “Who’s Funding Bari Weiss?” Puck News, November 12, 2021, https://puck.news/bari-weiss-tim-draper-vance-masters-thiel/
  10. [10]Tina Nguyen, “Is Bari Weiss U. For Real?” Puck News, November 15, 2021, https://puck.news/is-bari-weiss-u-for-real/
  11. [11]David Benfell, “The inexcusable, insufferable idiots coming to Austin,” Not Housebroken, November 13, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/11/09/the-inexcusable-insufferable-idiots-coming-to-austin/
  12. [12]Theodore Schleifer, “Who’s Funding Bari Weiss?” Puck News, November 12, 2021, https://puck.news/bari-weiss-tim-draper-vance-masters-thiel/
  13. [13]Tina Nguyen, “Is Bari Weiss U. For Real?” Puck News, November 15, 2021, https://puck.news/is-bari-weiss-u-for-real/
  14. [14]Geoff Shullenberger, “The Guild and the Grifters,” Chronicle of Higher Education, November 18, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/article/the-guild-and-the-grifters
  15. [15]David Benfell, “The death of academic freedom,” Not Housebroken, November 9, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/11/08/the-death-of-academic-freedom/
  16. [16]David Benfell, “A tale of three professors, all women, all of Asian descent,” Not Housebroken, November 22, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/04/23/a-tale-of-three-professors-all-women-all-of-asian-descent/
  17. [17]Geoff Shullenberger, “The Guild and the Grifters,” Chronicle of Higher Education, November 18, 2021, https://www.chronicle.com/article/the-guild-and-the-grifters
  18. [18]David Benfell, “The conundrum of higher education accreditation,” Not Housebroken, July 17, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/17/the-conundrum-of-higher-education-accreditation/

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