The controversial ex-New York Times opinion columnist and editor Bari Weiss is helping to open a new university inside a yellow brick house in the West Campus neighborhood of Austin, Texas, that discourages “illiberalism.”
Weiss is on the founding board of advisors for the University of Austin, which promises to have a “rigorous curriculum” designed by “society’s great doers” in partnership with teachers and educators. The university plans to expose students to open inquiry with an “intrepid pursuit of truth,” Fox News reported.
Respected journalist Eoin Higgins, who has written for The Washington Post, The Intercept and The Appeal, called Weiss’s latest pursuit a “scam.”
Known for her rants against “cancel culture,” Weiss announced her involvement in the college recently on her blog, which noted it would be a “school” dedicated to truth.
The staunchly pro-Israel editor quit the New York Times in a scathing resignation letter that claimed she was bullied by colleagues in an “illiberal environment.” She also advocated for the firing of pro-Palestinian professors at Columbia University.
Illiberalism.org defines illiberalism as “a strain of political culture, a set of institutional reforms (such as assaults on an independent judiciary) and broader societal processes (such as declining trust in liberal democratic institutions) that, over the past two decades, has emerged in response to liberalism.”
On his blog, Higgins broke down the seemingly notorious founding faculty members of the new school. The faculty includes former Evergreen State College professor (an “anti-vax crank,” Higgins wrote); blogger Andrew Sullivan (“regularly indulges all manner of racist and transphobic tropes); and, Higgins wrote, “Niall Ferguson is a historian with a limited knowledge and understanding of, well, history.”
Higgins went on to write that the unaccredited school “doesn’t really appear to be more than another right-wing scam.”
Higgins added, the school “makes pretty clear what its aim is in its fundraising appeals, telling supporters without gobs of cash that if they want to help, they can post on social media about the school.”
Peter Kanelos, the former president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, will serve as the president of the University of Austin.
According to its website, the university plans to launch in the summer of 2022, offering “forbidden courses” to college students that will stir discussions about “provocative questions that often lead to censorship or self-censorship in many universities.”
It plans to launch a graduate program in entrepreneurship and leadership in 2022, graduate programs in politics, applied history, education, and public service in 2023, and establish an undergraduate college in 2024.
“We got sick of complaining about how broken higher education is. So we decided to do something about it.
Announcing a new university dedicated to the fearless pursuit of truth,” Weiss tweeted.
Twitter users had a lot to say about the school and the pursuit of truth.
“Questions: will you allow criticisms of Israel? Will you allow students and staff to participate in BDS if they so choose?” tweeted Kim Iversen, a political talk show host and self-described populist.
“What an embarrassing grift,” Leah McElrath tweeted. “LOL, no degrees offered—and no accreditation or even programming—but the website offers multiple ways to donate.”
“Nothing says the ‘fearless pursuit of truth’ like a bunch of pay-for-credential 12-month (LMAO) professional Masters’ programs and a $0 research enterprise LOL” Jacob Bacharach @jakebackpack replied.
“omg i actually started laughing and the i started choking lollll” tweeted Imani Gandied YamsTurkey (bird)
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