In response to what they believe to be a broken education system, Pano Kanelos, former president of St. John’s College, has joined forces with other academics to create The University of Austin, “dedicated to the fearless pursuit of truth”.

The group aspires to “fix” the institution through free speech and “forbidden courses” that delve into “provocative questions that often lead to censorship” – a concept that has since been widely mocked online.

“So much is broken in America,” Kanelos’ wide-ranging post read on Bari Weiss’ Substack. “But higher education might be the most fractured institution of all.”

What started as “a small group” of concerned individuals, including Niall Ferguson, Bari Weiss, Heather Heying, Joe Lonsdale, Arthur Brooks and Kanelos, has since acquired some controversial academics: Dorian Abbot, Peter Bothossian and Kathleen Stock.

“On our quads, faculty are being treated like thought criminals,” Kanelos said, after Stock, a “gender critical” philosophy professor and a trustee of the anti-trans LGB Alliance, resigned from the University of Sussex following student protests who branded her “transphobic.” Stock’s stance on trans women was slammed after stating that trans women are “still males with male genitalia” and trans people “threaten a secure understanding of the concept ‘lesbian’”.

In a Twitter announcement on Monday (November 8), she said: “Delighted to be invited to be a Founding Faculty Fellow of the University of Austin, a new initiative announced today by Bari Weiss alongside several other stellar individuals.

“I accepted with alacrity. It’s an exciting looking project, focused on free inquiry.”

She later clarified that her position will not be “a full-time role”. Instead, she will be “involved in various ways from a UK base.”

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While The University of Austin won’t offer students accreditation, they plan on tackling “illiberalism” and “censoriousness” as Kanelos believes that the two-in-hand can “become endemic in a free society” and subsequently, failing students as individuals and the entire nation.

“We had thought such censoriousness was possible only under oppressive regimes in distant lands,” he said. “But it turns out that fear can become endemic in a free society. It can become most acute in the one place—the university—that is supposed to defend ‘the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable’”.

The institution plan on offering “forbidden courses”, which will see students from other universities discuss “the most provocative questions that often lead to censorship or self-censorship in many universities.”

The University of Austin will officially launch in Summer 2022. Later next year, they will offer Masters programmes in August.

Indy100 has reached out to The University of Austin for comment.

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