Texas Certifies New Free Speech University

The headquarters for the University of Austin at 2112 Rio Grande Street. | Image by Michael Gonzalez/The Texas Tribune

Two years after its launch, Texas officials have awarded full university status to the University of Austin, a free-speech-focused college founded by former New York Times writer Bari Weiss.

The “unique constitutional order” of the University of Austin (UATX) allegedly guarantees “intellectual freedom and protections against discrimination and indoctrination,” according to its website.

In its Wednesday announcement, the university stated that applications are open for the 100-member inaugural freshman class of Fall 2024. All inaugural freshmen will receive full-tuition scholarships.

“It is only fitting then that we invest in the next generation of builders, innovators, and creators, who deserve an education steeped in academic freedom and oriented towards the pursuit of wisdom,” UATX President Pano Kanelos said.

The college, which has raised $200 million from thousands of donors since its launch, is opening its new campus in Austin next month. UATX offered summer classes in Dallas while the facility in Austin was under construction.

UATX launched its first summer program last year, titled “The Forbidden Courses,” as reported by the New York Post. The program included courses called “Critical Thinking and Freedom of Expression,” “Street Epistemology,” and “How to Be Liberal in an Illiberal Age,” which were taught by Weiss.

More than 500 students from more than 30 states and two dozen countries have participated in the university’s summer programs for high schoolers, undergraduates, and graduates.

The newly certified four-year college curriculum will have two parts. Students will start with a two-year liberal arts education through the university’s Intellectual Foundations Program, followed by a two-year research-focused Junior Fellowship at one of the university’s specific schools.

UATX said it plans to expand its talent network of leaders in business, politics, technology, and other industries interested in mentoring and hiring their students.

Weiss co-founded the school along with historian Niall Ferguson, technology entrepreneur Joe Lonsdale, and Kanelos, who serves as president and previously worked as a university administrator.

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