Anti-Censorship Founders Create New Nonprofit ‘University of Austin’

Austin Congress Street Bridge and Texas Capitol Building
North view of Congress Street Bridge in Austin Texas and Capitol Building. | Image by Raymond Palmer

The founders of the proposed UATX, or the University of Austin, are seeking accreditation for their private university. The University of Austin would be based in the state’s capital, with an emphasis on independent learning and a strictly no-censorship ideology.  

Next summer, the university hopes to start offering classes, known as “Forbidden Courses.”

The university’s founders stated that the in-person instruction will create “spirited discussion about the most provocative questions that often lead to censorship or self-censorship in many universities.” 

University president, Pano Kanelos, first conceived the principle of UATX’s learning system. Kanelos, who previously worked as the president of St. John’s College, spoke with individuals of numerous backgrounds to formulate a plan. From biologists to entrepreneurs, Kanelos slowly turned the cogs with other like-minded scholars to form UATX.    

Kanelos’ proposed university has come with some criticism. In an interview with New York Times, students stated that universities “should not invite speakers who do not share their values on social issues like racial injustice.” They fear that an excess of differing opinions could promote “hate speech or harassment.”    

UATX would be “dedicated to free speech,” after founders observed “illiberalism and censoriousness prevalent in America’s most prestigious universities.” Kanelos states that the current state of education is “flattening.”

He says that students are encouraged to conform to beliefs which most mirror those of their professor or overall school. The new University of Austin would not follow that same path, founders state.    

Despite being a new entity, the University of Austin boasts an influential board of advisors. A former Harvard President, Lawrence H. Summers, as well as playwrights and economists from Harvard and Brown, will have spots on the board.    

Kanelos and the team are attempting to raise $250 million for the university and are still looking for viable sites for the campus. UATX would offer liberal arts programs without the expensive price tag, with founders saying the cost of tuition would be under $30,000 per year.    

Kanelos and the board oppose some claims that the university would be a “right-wing” project. The president of Heterodox Academy, John Tomasi, stated that UTAX is an “interesting cocktail of typically American ingredients — defiance and optimism.”  

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