And it is fading. The early ebullience from people like Bari Weiss is diminishing, and the only news about it I can find is that Niall Ferguson seems to be frantically touring right-wing podcasts to claim it’s really going to happen, which it isn’t. But I still see the occasional lefty chortling over the ridiculous concept. Like this one:
That those too-hot ideas—among them the celebration of free-market capitalism, eugenics and white supremacy, xenophobia, and transphobia, per the résumés of some of UATX’s founding trustees and advisors—are also cultural hegemonies championed by the richest and most powerful people and institutions thriving today in the Western world does not seem to be a problem for these self-styled revolutionaries. And why should it? This dippy bunch is not actually engaging in a genuine paradigm shift in the ivory tower; think of it more like the University of Pity Party at Austin.
Of course this project is silly. It’s brought to you by a group of wealthy—some of them mind-blowingly so—elites who are mostly known for whining about “cancel culture” and being rewarded handsomely for it. The very premise of UATX is preposterous, predicated on a subset of highly successful and privileged people’s unseemly thirst to be cast as victims in a grand narrative of—hilariously enough—intellectual and economic oppression. This scrappy underdog “university’s” board of advisors includes Larry Summers, former secretary of the treasury and president emeritus of a little college in Boston called Harvard (perhaps you’ve heard of it?). Other founders and advisors are professionally affiliated with Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, and UATX’s seed money flows forth from tech bro Joe “paternity leave is for losers” Lonsdale, a venture capitalist who co-founded the creepy surveillance/data-mining software company Palantir.
“Pity Party University”…that’s about right. But then, getting serious about it, the author says:
In contrast to the sharp rebuffs of my peers, I rarely experienced anything but the mildest pushback from left-leaning faculty. Far from being pressured to conform to left-wing groupthink by a socialist academic cabal, I got excellent grades and I was encouraged to share my ideas—offensive and ill-considered as they undoubtedly were—in class discussions. Oh, I had brilliant professors who planted seeds that would flower years later, but at the time, my own views hardly shifted. To the contrary (I was, after all, a contrarian) I dug in harder, sure that I was a powerful voice for the preservation of good old-fashioned American ideals, a bold defender of capitalism and the free market.
That’s the thing about the conservatives’ claims about those darned liberal universities. You read this blog, you know that I’m pretty fiercely partisan and that I despise Republicans with all my heart, but that doesn’t translate to how I manage a classroom. Like she says, your typical lefty professor encourages students “to share [their] ideas—offensive and ill-considered as they undoubtedly were”. We’re not interested in silencing, but in exposing.
The idea that we’d shout down conservatives and not let them speak is simply right-wing projection. That’s what they do.