It looks like PragerU will have some competition

And Lo, it shall be named the University of Austin. The usual disgruntled suspects are marching off to set up an unaccredited university that offers no degrees to Austin, Texas, as announced by a right-wing ex-college president, Panos Kanelos, on Bari Weiss’s substack. After deploring the censorious nature of the liberal university, he declares that he has moved to an office in Austin and is going to create a new university, fiat ex nihilo, from the dregs of the canceled.

But we are done waiting. We are done waiting for the legacy universities to right themselves. And so we are building anew.

I mean that quite literally.

As I write this, I am sitting in my new office (boxes still waiting to be unpacked) in balmy Austin, Texas, where I moved three months ago from my previous post as president of St. John’s College in Annapolis.

I am not alone.

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.

We count among our numbers university presidents: Robert Zimmer, Larry Summers, John Nunes, and Gordon Gee, and leading academics, such as Steven Pinker, Deirdre McCloskey, Leon Kass, Jonathan Haidt, Glenn Loury, Joshua Katz, Vickie Sullivan, Geoffrey Stone, Bill McClay, and Tyler Cowen.

We are also joined by journalists, artists, philanthropists, researchers, and public intellectuals, including Lex Fridman, Andrew Sullivan, Rob Henderson, Caitlin Flanagan, David Mamet, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sohrab Ahmari, Stacy Hock, Jonathan Rauch, and Nadine Strossen.

What a rogues gallery. It’s going to differ from PragerU, though, in being more than a YouTube channel — Kanelos is committed to creating a physical campus, with buildings and all that stuff, somewhere near Austin. Why Austin, you might ask? His answer:

If it’s good enough for Elon Musk and Joe Rogan, it’s good enough for us.

He forgot to mention that other equally esteemed scholar and fellow Austinite, Alex Jones.

He has appointed faculty! They include Ayaan Hirsi Ali (how far she has fallen), Kathleen Stock, the transphobic philosopher, and Peter Boghossian, the asshole philosopher. That’s it, so far. The curriculum isn’t going to have much breadth, I guess. Although, to be fair, they don’t even have a curriculum, yet, except perhaps to be the rubbish bin that attracts incompetent ideologues. They also have an ambitious goal of having a fully functional four-year undergraduate program in place by 2024. Ha ha.

Don’t you worry about the University of Austin, though! What they lack in academic rigor and actual scholarly talent, they make up for with the usual far-right super-grifting abilities. They say they are in the process of securing $250 million, which means some asshole billionaires somewhere are lined up to throw money at this poisonous shitpile.

Oh. We do know who is funding this grift: Joe Lonsdale, tech bro venture capitalist and pal to Peter Thiel.



  1. says

    Let’s hope the moneypit is as big as the cesspit. Who wouldn’t love to see them swimming in debt and rich rightwing “donors” wasting millions on a failure (as long as it’s all private money, of course)?

  2. raven says

    Our project began with a small gathering of those concerned about the state of higher education—Niall Ferguson…Peter Boghossian…Steven Pinker…Andrew Sullivan…

    I don’t recognize most of those names he is dropping. Or care either.
    I do recognize a few of them. They are all hacks of the far right wing lunatic fringes. Niall Ferguson is reliably stupid and evil. Steven Pinker is just a mindless sunshine veneer over defender of the status quo. Boghossian is just a misogynistic, racist hater.
    Not impressed.

  3. raven says

    This is all incredibly redundant.
    There are already hordes and fleets of far right wingnut colleges and universities!!!
    It is in the hundreds at least.
    Any fundie xian bible college such as NoLiberty U. Bob Jones, BYU, etc.. There are hundreds of these scattered throughout the USA.
    Hilsdale in Minnesota, Patriot U., etc..
    Plus all the right wingnut so called think tanks e.g. Heritage, Hoover etc..

    A university set up to defend and advocate for hate. Hate for women, nonwhites, nonxians, science, scientists, atheists, progressives, LGBTQ, etc..
    It doesn’t seem all that useful.
    You can hate everyone but right wingnut white fundie xian males without a university or a college degree. A lot of them never even graduated from high school, after all.

  4. garnetstar says

    “Waiting for the legacy universities to right themselves” is pretty funny. They’re already pretty far right.

    This will collapse into farce quite soon. Nothing like a bunch of people so self-satisfied as to think they can pull a functioning university out of the air.

    “Brave professors”, hah. It’s the ones at U. of Florida, who are testifying against DeSantis, who are brave.

  5. jacksprocket says

    I wonder if Kathleen Stock knows she’s got this job? She’d be a fool to associate with them in any way.

  6. stroppy says

    They’re living in a past of cliches, it’s all Berkeley in the 60’s everywhere, all the time. They just can’t figure it out and keep up, I guess.

  7. stwriley says

    jacksprocket @7:

    I actually wonder how many of that rouges’ gallery that Kanelos mentioned know that they’re associated with this “venture”. He has some names on that list that seem pretty surprising to be associated with a rightwing grift like this, including Larry Summers (not exactly a rightwing nutjob, even though he is a sexist asshole.) I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a number of them disavowing any involvement with this new “university” once they find out about it.

  8. Doc Bill says

    Also in Texas is this from the Texas Tribune. The LIBERTY Institute. The name says it all.:

    “Over the past eight months, leaders at the University of Texas at Austin have been working with private donors and Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to launch a new think tank on campus that would be “dedicated to the study and teaching of individual liberty, limited government, private enterprise and free markets.”

    Legislators already approved initial funding for the Liberty Institute, slipping $6 million into the 2022-23 state budget without giving details of the project’s aim. University officials have also committed $6 million. All involved have been vague or silent about their plans so far when asked by faculty and student groups. And they have repeatedly denied interview requests from The Texas Tribune about the project’s intent, its budget and who is involved.

    But emails and documents obtained by the Tribune via open records request show that UT-Austin President Jay Hartzell and others at the university have been working in earnest with Patrick, UT-Austin donors and UT System Board Chair Kevin Eltife, a former Republican state senator, to launch the Liberty Institute as a way to bring “intellectual diversity” to campus. At least two well-known UT-Austin alumni and conservative donors, oil tycoon Bud Brigham and billionaire businessman Bob Rowling, also have been involved in the project.”

  9. raven says

    … “dedicated to the study and teaching of individual liberty, limited government, private enterprise and free markets.”

    Yet again, another right wingnut so called think tank like Heritage, Hoover, Koch brothers, etc.., all saying the same thing. Which is a very limited subset of tired old ideas repeated over and over again and going nowhere.

    And all of which reduces down to, make the rich richer and the poor poorer ad infinitum, until the system just stops because no one has any money to buy stuff any more.

    What we are seeing here is what has been happening for my entire life. We in the center and on the left have the numbers of people. The right wingnuts have the money. Follow the money. It’s been winning for decades now.

  10. raven says

    Right wingnut thought isn’t really thought. That is an oxymoron.
    It’s just tired old cliches strung together and repeated like a dog barking.

    Free markets don’t really exist.
    They are a creation of…governments and society.
    Without some mechanism to maintain them, they quickly devolve into oligopathies and monopolies.

  11. Doc Bill says

    Yeah, no duh! Also, as usual with these criminals it’s all being done undercover, in the dark. These guys are all pandering posers braying “Freedom! First Amendment! Constitution!” when in reality that is just a cloak to cover their grifting and money laundering. None of these cockroaches can tolerate the light of day.

    These guys are very dangerous, though. Just look at the damage T****’s “economic” team did to the country with those stupid tariffs. Billions of $$ down the tube and people are, like, “Ho, hum.” Sadly, the Texas GOPQ legislature is chock full of these cretinous dunderheads who don’t have the faintest clue what they are doing.

  12. DrVanNostrand says

    As someone who went to the REAL university in Austin, I just want to say it’s actually a pretty nice city. The two main strikes against it are the heat and the unfortunate fact that it’s in Texas. It’s sad to see someone make it worse with their stupid fake college.

  13. PaulBC says

    DrVanNostrand@18 I enjoyed a short stay in Austin in 1994 and UT Austin has a great reputation (at least in my field and I assume others).

    It seems like they should not be able to get away with “University of Austin” though I admit there are a lot of confusing university names so it could be a hard case to argue.

  14. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Wait till they unveil their Music program, headed up by distinguished academics Ted Nugent and Kid Rock.

  15. Pierce R. Butler says

    Sam Harris might fit in nicely. And what about that Dr. Carrier fellow – he still needs a job, last I heard.

  16. birgerjohansson says

    Wait, wait! That Wickramasinghe fellow who supported Fred Hoyle’s idea of virus raining down from comets will fit right in.
    For studies of international relations: Nigel Farage. In fact, the Brits will pay them if they take him and keep him there. In chains, if necessary.
    Economy: every goddamn Milton Friedman disciple.

  17. captainjack says

    raven @ #14
    Free markets don’t really exist.
    Why it’s like the invisible hand of the marketplace isn’t really there!! Quelle surprise!!

  18. skeptivet says

    Interesting choice of location. Austin is arguably the most liberal city in the conservative wasteland of Texas.

  19. says

    Our Forbidden Courses summer program invites top students from other universities to join us for a spirited discussion about the most provocative questions that often lead to censorship or self-censorship in many universities.

    Forbidden Courses would be a good title for a cookbook about erotic desserts. Or a Hannibal fanfic.

    “Why, Dr. Lecter, this roast pork is superb!”

    “I am pleased you find it … provocative. I have always believed that one should never censor oneself in the pursuit of gastronomic excellence.”

  20. blf says

    PaulBC@19 (and largely OT), Just a few years earlier, a good friend and I attended a conference at UT Austin — and as you say, from our observations of a small part of Austin (mostly the area around the University), it does seem like a nice place, with the exceptions of the heat and being in teh Texas fatherland.

    Whilst there were many amusing incidents on that trip, there is one I remember fairly clearly now. Both of us were (poor) students, and being both bicyclists and train fanatics, decide to take Amtrack from LA to San Antonio with our bicycles, and cycle to Austin. At that time, Amtrack required bicycles to be boxed, so we carefully checked — Amtrack had boxes at the LA station — and arrived early. A kind Amtrack / station staffmember helped us box up our bicycles. In San Antonio, a very kind staffmember allowed us to store the boxes for free for our return. Which all worked great.

    What didn’t work so great was the San Antonio↔Austin cycle ride. We’d checked the USGS topo maps (50ft contour lines), and it looked fairly flat. Which it wasn’t! Up-and-down, up-and-down, all fecking day… the joke became all the hills were 49ft high!

    The scary thing is the drivers had no idea what do when encountering cyclists. Most of them opted to pass us (there was basically no hard shoulder, so we had to ride inside the traffic lane) completely in the other lane, on a hilly, one-lane-each-direction, road. Often whilst going uphill. We were seriously seriously worried there would be a collision around the crest of the hill with invisible oncoming traffic in that other, opposite-direction, lane. Fortunately, there wasn’t, albeit there was just enough traffic the ride, besides being unexpectedly exhausting, was somewhat terrifying.

  21. PaulBC says

    blf@29 Yeah. Reaction to cyclists varies widely in the US. The SF Bay Area is mostly bicycle-friendly. Davis, CA is downright smug about it. I used to ride my bike in Baltimore over 25 years ago, and nobody was surprised to see bicycles, but the big problem was the drainage gratings, which ran parallel to the street and were wider than a road bike tire (and probably hybrid). I imagine there are parts of Texas where they rarely see anyone outside a car, but that wasn’t the impression I got of Austin at least in the downtown area.

    While I still bike regularly (for fun and transportation, nothing intense) there are a few cases where I think the cyclists are crazy. The hills between here and the coast (West of Palo Alto) are narrow and twisty. It’s hard enough to drive on them, let alone pass cyclists, and I have seen some of them riding downhill at full speed. Also, I’ve seen at least one crash.

  22. nomdeplume says

    “Ayaan Hirsi Ali (how far she has fallen)”. Hmm, from the start she seemed to me someone who saw a niche on the far right and went for it.

  23. blf says


    [… T]here are a few cases where I think the cyclists are crazy. The hills between here and the coast (West of Palo Alto) are narrow and twisty. It’s hard enough to drive on them, let alone pass cyclists, and I have seen some of them riding downhill at full speed.

    Bows low. I did that, sometimes in that area, more commonly in the same mountains on the western side (around Santa Cruz (another very bicycle-friendly area)) and along the coast. Once, on Highway 1, south of Monterey heading towards Big Sur, the speedometer clocked at over 60mph (the limit was probably 45mph). I was in a group of about four cyclists, and we sat right in the middle of the lane to discourage passing, being sure to pull over towards the shoulder on the next uphill as we slowed down.

    I’ve never crashed at speed, nor seen an “at speed” crash (outside of televised races), but did once manage to badly scare myself: Those mountains again, probably on Highway 35 (cannot quite recall now), but I managed to keep control and not go over the edge. Weirdly, I don’t recall if there was a guardrail or not.

  24. fifilamour says

    Quite a few of those names, Pinker and Summers particularly, intersect around “once were good friends with pedophile pseudo-intellectual grifter Jeffrey Epstein”….