West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee has joined the board of a new private liberal arts university that aims to fix higher education and is devoted to “the fearless pursuit of truth.”
The University of Austin, based in Austin, Texas, is currently not accredited and unable to confer degrees.
“We are done waiting for the legacy universities to right themselves,” writes the University's Founding President Pano Kanelos in a blog post released with the launch. “And so we are building anew.”
Kanelos said universities have become a place of censorship that simply aim to “avoid financial collapse.”
Gee is listed among the dozens of members of the University of Austin Board of Advisors. The board includes journalists, authors, academics and writers, but Gee is the only listed sitting university president.
Other board members include John Nunes, former president of Concordia College, Larry Summers, president emeritus at Harvard University, and Robert Zimmer, chancellor and former president of University of Chicago.
Should WVU President Gee advise another university?
WVU President E. Gordon Gee is advising University of Austin, a new private liberal arts university that aims to fix higher education and is devoted to “the fearless pursuit of truth.” After the news came out Monday morning that he was part of the University of Austin's Board of Advisors, he released a letter and said he was "fully committed" to WVU. What do you think?
“The reality is that many universities no longer have an incentive to create an environment where intellectual dissent is protected and fashionable opinions are scrutinized,” Kanelos writes. “At our most prestigious schools, the primary incentive is to function as finishing school for the national and global elite. Amidst the brick and ivy, these students entertain ever-more-inaccessible theories while often just blocks away their neighbors figure out how to scratch out a living.”
The University’s website says the first courses will begin this summer. This will start with a summer graduate program called the “Forbidden Course” that will be “about the most provocative questions that often lead to censorship or self-censorship in many universities.”
The University plans to offer four graduate programs in the coming years in the fields of entrepreneurship, politics and applied history, education and STEM.
In the fall of 2024, the University plans to launch an undergraduate program that involves an “intensive liberal arts curriculum.”
The school is currently unaccredited but is actively seeking regional and national accreditation, according to its website.
“Our conversations with our accredited partners lead us to believe that we'll have a much shorter time frame than [a decade],” the University writes. “But we're not waiting for accreditation to get started on our programming. Until it is accredited, UATX will offer other programs, possibly including programs in partnership with an accredited institution.”
The school is also not able to confer degrees at this time.
Panelos says the project expects and welcomes opposition.
“There are networks of donors, foundations, and activists that uphold and promote the status quo,” he writes. “There are parents who expect the status quo. There are students who demand it, along with even greater restrictions on academic freedom. And there are administrators and professors who will feel threatened by any disruption to the system.
“We welcome their opprobrium and will regard it as vindication.”