“University” is not a word that should be associated with “scam”

I think it’s part of the Right’s efforts to undermine education — steal the word “university” and attach it to rank garbage. Think PragerU. Think Trump University. Think University of Austin. All trash. Now how about this: a blockchain university, Woolf U.

In a lengthy August 2018 interview with Disruption Hub, Woolf’s founder Joshua Broggi — a philosopher of religion at Wolfson College, Oxford — tells how he was first inspired to blockchain by a student who wanted to pay his university fees in cryptocurrency.

Broggi thinks “blockchain” could solve all manner of issues in higher education, even the problem with adjunct teaching, the gig economy of academia — “when I look around my faculty, they spend a significant portion of their time acquiring their next temporary position, and that’s really a wasteful use of these extremely talented peoples’ time” — even though Woolf’s plan is also a gig economy. His answer to this detail is that the Woolf model will assure a steady supply of students for the independently-contracting academics to teach.

As of October 2018, Broggi was still confident in the blockchain approach — “We literally could not do what we are doing without a blockchain,” he told ABC News — though actual blockchain academic Michèle Finck told ABC she considered the project fundamentally “misunderstands what a university education is about,” and would be a GDPR disaster.

Broggi also stated at this time that tuition would be $5,000 per year — down from the $19,200 he had estimated in March 2018.

Perhaps it’s my limited imagination, but I fail to see how blockchain helps anything here. Broggi seems to be getting fired up about a tool (a bad tool) for managing payments to administrators, which is a bizarre focus for a university, but a pretty good one for a scam, where the money rolling in is all that matters. I’m trying to remember the 1980s when spreadsheets were all the rage…did anyone propose a Spreadsheet University, where everyone was excited about using VisiCalc to track budgets and grades? This is not to imply that blockchain has all the utility of a spreadsheet — it doesn’t — or that spreadsheets aren’t extremely useful for managing grades (I use them all the time), but that no one would look at a tool like that and say, “Hmmm. I am inspired to wrap a whole university in that, it’s far more important than trivialities like a curriculum.”

Poor Broggi. He seems to have lately realized that you shouldn’t name your scam “Scam University”, and “blockchain” has become synonymous with “scam”, so he’s had to delete the word “blockchain” from his promotional materials.

The word “blockchain” seems to have vanished from Woolf’s site some time between September 2018 and January 2019 — and the page title changed from “Building The First Blockchain University” to “Building a Borderless University.” The main headline is now “Not your typical online university,” and the front page speaks of video tutorials with a “real professor” and two or three students.

That leaves me wondering what makes Woolf University different from other fly-by-night student-loan-exploiting fake university out there. The answer is…nothing.

Oh hey, speaking of fake universities, let’s check in with the University of Austin. June 2022 is a big month for them, because this is when they have their very first course offering, “The Forbidden Courses“. They’ve had to scale back a bit, unsurprisingly. The courses will not be held in Austin — they’ve rented some lovely spaces in Dallas for the whole thing. The “course” is all of 4 days long, and there are two course sessions…you could apply for both if you wanted. It is not accredited.

No, our program is not a credit-bearing or degreed program. Students may not earn continuing education credits, credit hours, or a diploma for participation in this program. Each course will occur over ten hours in one week.

The “course” itself is an incoherent schmear. They’ve gathered together a set of ideologues and told them, apparently, to talk about whatever they feel like. There is no clear theme, no synthesis, just third-rate conservative rock stars asked to talk at the students.


Niall Ferguson on free vs. unfree societies in the 20th century
Ayaan Hirsi Ali on free speech, religion, and women’s rights
Dorian Abbot on approaches to climate change
Rob Henderson on the psychology of social status


Kathleen Stock on varieties of feminism
Jacob Howland on ideology
Deirdre McCloskey on capitalism: catastrophe or triumph?
Thomas Chatterton Williams on black male writing from Richard Wright to Ta-Nehisi Coates

There are also “workshops”. It is not clear what they are workshopping.

Arthur Brooks, Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership, Harvard University
Nadine Strossen, Professor of Law, New York Law School; former President of the ACLU
David Mamet, award-winning playwright and author; Pulitzer Prize winner
Peter Boghossian, Philosopher and Author
Bari Weiss, journalist and best-selling author
Carlos Carvalho, Professor of Statistics, UT-Austin
Joshua Katz, Classicist, Princeton University
Lea Carpenter, novelist and screenwriter
Edward Luttwak, military strategist and author
Joe Lonsdale, CEO of 8VC, Co-Founder of Palantir
Balaji Srinivasan, Angel Investor and Tech Founder
Maleka Momand, Co-Founder & CEO, Esper
Katherine Boyle, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz
Robert Steffens, Co President, Marvel Entertainment
Geoff Lewis, Founder & Managing Partner, Bedrock
Amber Allen, Founder and CEO, Double A Labs
Jack Abraham, Founder, Managing Partner & CEO at Atomic
Michael Solana, Vice President, Founders Fund

So you show up for one of these forbidden courses, and there’s a mob of like 20 professors waiting to divvy up the 10 hours of instruction, and each one has their own peculiar hobby horse they’re riding, and they anticipate a group of 30-40 students, and then what?

I looked at that mess and figured their student body was going to be tinier than they expect, except they did one thing exactly right. They are paying bodies to attend.

Due to the support of a generous grant from our donors, there is no cost to attend the program. Hotels, some meals, and activities are covered by UATX. A $300 stipend will be given to participants to defray costs from travel, some meals, and other incidental expenses. Any additional costs will be the responsibility of participants.

Whoa. I wish we could just pay our students to attend my university, and take care of their housing and meals at no cost. This is what you get when millionaires and billionaires back your efforts to destroy public education. I wonder what contribution Elon Musk made?


  1. Scott Simmons says

    Dang, applications are closed. Could have had some fun, and free meals to boot!
    Probably for the best, actually. The shit sandwiches served up in the main sessions would have made the lunches taste awful.

  2. raven says

    Niall Ferguson on free vs. unfree societies in the 20th century…

    I recognize some of those names, don’t recognize most of them.

    Niall Ferguson caught my eye a long time ago for being consistently wrong about everything.
    An anti-scholar. He is Jordan Peterson without the wit and charm. (This is sarcasm.)

    Wikpedia: Iraq War
    Ferguson supported the 2003 Iraq War, and he is on record as being not necessarily opposed to future western incursions around the world.

    This guy supported the Iraq war long after it became obvious it was a huge failure. He caught my attention with an article in Newsweek claiming that getting rid of Saddam Hussein made it all worthwhile.

    Wikipedia: Remarks on Keynes’ sexual orientation
    At a May 2013 investment conference in Carlsbad, California, Ferguson was asked about his views on economist John Maynard Keynes’ quotation that “in the long run we are all dead.” Ferguson stated that Keynes was indifferent to the future because he was gay and did not have children.[142] The remarks were widely criticised for being offensive, factually inaccurate, and a distortion of Keynes’ ideas.[143][144]

    An ad hominen attack on Keynes, a trivial insult.
    Proves nothing except that Ferguson has no real thoughts or ideas of his own.
    WIkipedia spends pages and pages documenting how wrong Ferguson is and how often.

    A routine garden variety right wingnut hack and cosistent idiot.

  3. raven says

    I don’t recognize most of those names.
    I’m sure it is for good reasons and for the best.

    Peter Boghossian, Philosopher and Author
    Bari Weiss, journalist and best-selling author

    These two are both right wingnut hacks who can spend endless hours saying nothing worthwhile.

    Kathleen Stock is…Stock is acknowledged as a prominent “gender-critical” feminist. She has opposed transgender self-identification in regards to proposed reforms “

    Oh. A trans hater.
    At least they are current on their hate targets. This time it is children though.

    Not going to look up any more names on the list.
    I’m sure it will just be a hate festival of bigotry and racism. Against their usual targets, which include nonwhites, nonxians, Muslims, gays, trans, progressives, women, Keynesian economics, etc..

  4. hemidactylus says

    Charitably this latter endeavor looks more to be IDWCon(vention) than university and the name “Forbidden” Courses a riff on Great Courses. I would prefer content the latter provided. The “Forbidden” Courses could be more workshops found at a Con(vention) from which you pick and choose.

    If I’m getting stipended it might be amusing to hate-audit Boghossian and see how devoted he really is to free speech toward a thorn in the side “student”.

    Others have already critiqued some of the talent. I have heard of Deirdre McCloskey before. I hadn’t gotten much of a negative vibe. She is a transwoman with economic views not in tune with the Left: “McCloskey has described herself as a “literary, quantitative, postmodern, free-market, progressive Episcopalian, Midwestern woman from Boston who was once a man. Not ‘conservative’! I’m a Christian Classical Liberal.”” She could be interesting.


    I’m not getting a solid read on Thomas Chatterton Williams. Maybe something of a black contrarian akin to John McWhorter.


    So they have some actual diversity in their ranks though I suppose they are more in the mold of viewpoint diversity.

    As a university no. As something along the lines of Great Courses, more ideologically bent. As a Con(vention)…if you’re into that sort of thing.

  5. wzrd1 says

    Interesting that you wondered about what Musk contributed, Bezos is about as bad. Just left one moonbat discussion on antisocial media where they were discussing the infinite pastabilities of O’Neill Cylinders and the others, colonization of the moon and mars, with tons of unobtainium being used to make magical shit to make everything work and handwave fixing radiation and gravitational problems.
    Then, somehow distance became a friend because of the threat from MagicNuke, from RonCo. MagicNuke can chase you anywhere near earth, with total accuracy and absolutely no warning! MagicNuke can also reach geosynchronous orbit, unlike well, pretty much anything other than the rare geosynch satellite…

    At least schmear is useful on bread, alas, bullshit ain’t all that useful as a main course.
    We choose to do this, that and the other thing because Marilyn makes it hard…
    But, they’ll handwave any problem or reality away, using the tried and true space moonbat method of buzzwords. Because the only thing that’s easy is getting idiotic ideas into zealots excuse for a mind, hard is getting the idiocy back out before they’re stuck leaping from the fortress walls.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Such a pity that the Center For Inquiry has (apparently) missed out on this unique outreach opportunity!

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    Thomas Chatterton Williams on black male writing from Richard Wright to Ta-Nehisi Coates

    He wrote one of the most dishonest opinion pieces I’ve ever seen in The Guardian, basically left-baiting BLM protesters for gathering during the pandemic, ignoring the precautions set up by the organizers and the epidemiological follow-up as to how well those precautions worked; then promoted a petition against “cancel culture” that also seriously misrepresented each case it (vaguely) addressed.

    Nadine Strossen, Professor of Law, New York Law School; former President of the ACLU

    The University of Florida’s speaker program set her up, during her ACLU presidency, in a “debate” with Darryl Gates, then recently retired Los Angeles Police Department chief.

    He mopped the floor with her – not by making good points or witty repartée, just by dodging questions and droning on to run out the clock, while she apparently held her breath waiting for the dimwit moderator to do something, anything. After witnessing that debacle, I refused to make any donations to ACLU so long as she had any affiliation with same.

  8. Kagehi says

    Yeah, calling it a “tool” is even a stretch, by “some” experts estimate, kind of like a massive and devastating earthquake happening in California, or the magnetic poles switching, “We can’t understand why it hasn’t already collapsed.”

    Why? Because almost all of it seems to be built on the insane process of:

    Get someone to give us a shit load of investment money.
    Build a big data center.
    Use the investment money to pay the electric bill for the data center.
    Scam more people into giving us large transactions fees, which we hope we can use to pay off the investors, for dumping their money into our block chain.
    Run around finding more investors, because, despite the large transaction fees we make people pay, we don’t have enough to pay the electric bills, and so we need more investors, and a bigger data center!

    And, this is without bringing up the fact that the process of getting people to put their money “into” the system they have built is an MLM pyramid scheme, which is designed to get everyone that can to get more people to buy into it (and get part of that new person’s transaction fees back, as an incentive for getting the next rube to buy into it), with, in theory, more and more money filtering up, to the top, through all the lower level intermediaries.

    There has to be an upper limit on a) how much they can spend on power, before it becomes useless, b) how long they can function if people keep money in the block chain, but don’t do transactions, c) the cost of the transactions, before people bail, and d) how many idiots they can get to buy into it. Sadly, the latter seems, more and more, to be, “There are millions of them.”, like the twit at my work whose husband decided that “banks are bad”, and decided to invest in Bitcoin for their life savings instead… Sigh… And, until the billionaires/millionaires find that their, “return on investment in the gullibility of people”, starts costing them more to “buy in” as the people paying the electric bill than they can ever possibly get back out of it….