Bari Weiss’s Anti-Cancel Culture University Is Already Hitting Speed Bumps

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    Bari Weiss’s Anti-Cancel Culture University Is Already Hitting Speed Bumps

    Two figureheads have parted ways with the University of Austin barely a week after its founding—and more growing pains are likely ahead.

    The University of Austin, an unaccredited anti-cancel-culture academic project launched last week by former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss and a number of her intellectual compatriots, has already hit its first speed bump. On Monday, University of Chicago chancellor Robert Zimmer and Harvard professor Steven Pinker announced that they will be parting ways with the institution after initially being listed as two of its advisory board members. “As is often the case with fast-moving start-ups, there were some missteps,” the University of Austin wrote in a statement announcing their departure. “Our website initially failed to make clear the distinction between the Founding Trustees and the Advisory Board…it conflated advisers, who were aligned in general with the project but not necessarily in agreement with all its actions and statements, and those who had originated the project and bear responsibility for those things.” 

    In a tweet, Pinker, a liberal intellectual who was widely criticized after his ties to late billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein were made public, noted that the dissolution of his partnership with the university happened in a “mutual & amicable” fashion. “[I’m] wishing them well. I’m concentrating on Rationality (the book) and Think With Pinker (the BBC radio & podcast series) & won’t be speaking on this further,” he added. Zimmer also shared a statement, writing that while he agrees with the University of Austin’s commitment to freedom of expression, “the new university made a number of statements about higher education in general, largely quite critical, that diverged very significantly from my own views.” 

    One such critical comment came from the school’s president, Pano Kanelos, who wrote in a post on Weiss’s Substack that faculty members at American universities “are being treated like thought criminals” and are being punished for “having a wrong opinion about hot-button issues such as immigration or gender differences.” The school’s website elaborates: “We are alarmed by the illiberalism and censoriousness prevalent in America’s most prestigious universities and what it augurs for the country,” it reads. “But we know that there are enough of us who still believe in the core purpose of higher education, the pursuit of truth.”

    The institution’s list of founding trustees and advisers is a Murderers’ Row of media personalities who have decried “cancel culture,” including evolutionary biologist Heather Heying, historian Niall Ferguson, New York Post columnist Sohrab Ahmari, Atlantic staff writer Caitlin Flanagan, and former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan. While the university, as it currently stands, is merely a place for students to take informal courses, its founders say they plan to build a physical campus in the Austin area that can house up to 4,000 students and receive accreditation for graduate and undergraduate programs.

    Whether that’s a tenable avenue remains to be seen. And skeptics believe that building a physical campus is more than a logistical hurdle—it’s a false flag. As Katelyn Burns wrote for MSNBC:

    There appears to be no substance behind the allegedly academic effort. None of the instructors are expected to produce research in their field; none of the programs provide credits that could be accepted at actual colleges. Instead, the University of Austin appears to be a clearinghouse for online videos or classes, where people like [Kathleen] Stock [a British academic who has been accused of transphobia], can say whatever she wants about trans people or columnist Andrew Sullivan can lecture about racial IQ without official consequences. And students will presumably be paying money to access this material, of course.

    Daniel Drezner, a Tufts University professor, raised questions of his own about how realistic the university’s brick-and-mortar goal is. “At this point, UATX is more notional than real,” he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, adding that he is uncertain “whether this fledgling project will come anywhere close to its stated purpose.” In a follow-up article, Drezner questioned how the project will raise the capital required to go IRL. “Most plutocrats look at the current state of American higher education and do not see the apocalypse that [the university’s founders] claim exists,” he added. “Maybe, just maybe, they are exercising their own kind of independent thinking.”

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    Published at Tue, 16 Nov 2021 23:48:03 +0000

    https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/11/bari-weisss-university-hitting-speed-bumps

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