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November 15, 2021

Welcome to Based University

A tech titan is beginning his own university, recruiting a bunch of heterodox-- often #Cancelled -- teachers and thinkers, including many suspected of being -- ssshhh! -- conservative-leaning.

Joe Lonsdale of Palantir (which I think is some imaging system the military uses, maybe?) and a bunch of people fed-up will toxically illiberal culture are forming the University of Austin.

Why Austin? People like the idea of Austin because it's an "artsy" Blue City in freedom-loving Texas. But it does not share Texas' love of freedom. It's a repressive pit of Karens that holds an occasional film festival.

Well, be that as it may.

[T]he sacrifice of liberal enlightenment values has corrupted academic cultures. In the liberal university, open inquiry and debate about the world were prized as values in their own right. Our society recognized this by endowing universities with public money, trust, and power. In modern universities, these values have been lost, as has the legitimacy they impart. Robust debate on important topics is increasingly rare, and uniformity of viewpoint is increasingly demanded. Universities have been captured by new ideologies of intolerance that order subservience and quash those who think differently.

The combined effect of these structural and cultural problems is that the elite universities aren't attracting the best talent as often, nor producing the type of leaders we need.

Many of the independent thinkers who don't adhere to the right academic categories and ideologies, those who might have become leading academics 50 years ago, now find greater self-actualization as entrepreneurs and technologists. Independent thinkers are repelled by intolerant and rigid intellectual environments. When universities are obsessed with hunting heretics, they become incapable of real creative achievement and fall behind. Bad careerist incentives discourage engagement with outsiders, or even with those on the inside who diverge from consensus.

In the shadow of these challenges lies an opportunity.

It is possible today, for the first time in generations, to build a new university to compete with top schools -- one that attracts the most talented young people in the world and empowers them to pursue truth and innovation. We can, today, found a university that will prepare a new generation of leaders to think for themselves about all sides of an issue, speak truth to power, and take power back from ideologues.

The other founders include: Bari Weiss, biologist (I think) Heather Heying (wife of Brett Weinstein), and historian Niall Ferguson. Faculty fellows include Sokal Square hoaxer Peter Boghossian (who I think was forced to abandon his university post), and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Advisers include Steven Pinker, Jonathan Haidt, Glenn Loury, Tyler Cowen, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, David Mamet, Sohrab Ahmari, and Caitlin Flanagan, and others. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is listed both as a fellow and advisor; I'm sure it's a typo, but I don't know which mention is extraneous.

Those are the names I recognize.

They plan to have graduate programs in Leadership and Entrepreneurship running by 2022, and to add graduate programs in "Politics and Applied History" and "Education and Public Service" in 2023. In 2024, they say they'll launch the undergraduate school, which sounds like a huge, huge lift, but, okay, aim for the stars.

Good luck to them.

Lonsdale says:

But with a healthy amount of courage, determination, and yes -- money, it can be done. And when we succeed and look back on this time, we'll see that it was a small price to pay for all that we'll have gained from the choice to be bold today.

I suppose if you throw enough money at a problem you can solve it.

I don't think there's any choice but to create an entirely parallel society, until a formal political separation.

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posted by Ace at 05:45 PM

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