Free Speech Advocates Band Together, Form Dynamic New University to 'Pursue Truth,' Battle the Woke Left


As an antidote to the woke climate of higher education, a new college in Texas will be “dedicated to the pursuit of truth,” its leaders announced Monday.

Next summer, the University of Austin will offer what it called “the ‘Forbidden Courses,’ our flagship summer program for undergraduates from other institutions.”

That will be followed in the fall by master’s programs in Entrepreneurship and Leadership, with programs in Politics and Applied History and Education and Public Service coming the following fall.

The University of Austin’s four-year programs will debut in the fall of 2024, it said on its website.

The college says one of its key principles is that “[u]niversities devoted to the unfettered pursuit of truth are the cornerstone of a free and flourishing democratic society.”

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As for why it chose Austin for its home, the college said, “If it’s good enough for Elon Musk and Joe Rogan, it’s good enough for us” — a reference to the entrepreneur’s and podcaster’s recent moves to Texas.

“But seriously: Texas is experiencing a historic boom in talent and capital,” it said. “Austin, in particular, is a hub for builders, mavericks and creators — the kind of people our university aims to attract and from whom we want to receive guidance.”

Do you think a university like this is needed right now?

In a blog post on Monday, University of Austin founder Panos Kanelos, the former president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, explained why another college is needed.

“So much is broken in America. But higher education might be the most fractured institution of all. There is a gaping chasm between the promise and the reality of higher education,” Kanelos wrote.

“[C]an we actually claim that the pursuit of truth — once the central purpose of a university — remains the highest virtue? Do we honestly believe that the crucial means to that end — freedom of inquiry and civil discourse — prevail when illiberalism has become a pervasive feature of campus life?” he said, noting the extent to which anyone not hewing the liberal line is punished.

“At our most prestigious schools, the primary incentive is to function as finishing school for the national and global elite. Amidst the brick and ivy, these students entertain ever-more-inaccessible theories while often just blocks away their neighbors figure out how to scratch out a living,” Kanelos wrote.

“It’s not just that we are failing students as individuals; we are failing the nation,” he said. “Our democracy is faltering, in significant part, because our educational system has become illiberal and is producing citizens and leaders who are incapable and unwilling to participate in the core activity of democratic governance.

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“Universities are the places where society does its thinking, where the habits and mores of our citizens are shaped. If these institutions are not open and pluralistic, if they chill speech and ostracize those with unpopular viewpoints, if they lead scholars to avoid entire topics out of fear, if they prioritize emotional comfort over the often-uncomfortable pursuit of truth, who will be left to model the discourse necessary to sustain liberty in a self-governing society?

“At some future point, historians will study how we arrived at this tragic pass. And perhaps by then we will have reformed our colleges and universities, restoring them as bastions of open inquiry and civil discourse. But we are done waiting. We are done waiting for the legacy universities to right themselves. And so we are building anew,”

Kanelos said the Austin campus will be designed for in-person learning: “It will surely seem retro — perhaps even countercultural — in an era of massive open online courses and distance learning to build an actual school in an actual building with as few screens as possible. But sometimes there is wisdom in things that have endured.”

He listed a roster of names supporting the new college, noting that they do not think in lockstep.

“Our project began with a small gathering of those concerned about the state of higher education — Niall Ferguson, Bari Weiss, Heather Heying, Joe Lonsdale, Arthur Brooks, and I — and we have since been joined by many others, including the brave professors mentioned above, Kathleen Stock, Dorian Abbot and Peter Boghossian,” Kanelos said.

“Our backgrounds and experiences are diverse; our political views differ. What unites us is a common dismay at the state of modern academia and a recognition that we can no longer wait for the cavalry. And so we must be the cavalry,” he wrote.

Kanelos said the goal of the college is to focus on the truth wherever it leads.

“An education rooted in the pursuit of truth is the antidote to the kind of ignorance and incivility that is everywhere around us,” he wrote.

Noting that scoffing is expected, Kanelos shrugged it off.

“We welcome their opprobrium and will regard it as vindication,” he wrote. “To the rest — to those of you who share our sense that something fundamental is broken — we ask that you join us in our effort to renew higher education.”

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Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack can be reached at
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