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WVU President Gordon Gee's open letter to the University community reminds me of the old axiom "It's better to ask for forgiveness than it is for permission."
The premise of "Higher education is fundamentally broken and the problem is people are afraid of being called racist, transphobic, etc" is a red herring.
Instead of the problems like institutional racism, sexism, & queerphobia, the declining student population, perceptions of higher education in general, adjunctification of the professoriate, state-level funding crises, etc., the kind of academic freedom the University of Austin seems to promote is more potentially harmful hyper capitalist libertarian nonsense, allied with those who have been accused of sexism, homophobia, xenophobia.
It wasn't so long ago that conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos came to WVU campus in 2016 and attacked a faculty member and used similar rhetoric espoused by some of those associated with University of Austin.
True, there are many issues in higher education that need fixing, so why doesn't Gee start with the underfunded public universities in Appalachia by advising Jim Justice or Mitch McConnell or Joe Manchin--someone who could actually make a big change in the investment of the land-grant universities he's written so much about.
What is stopping folks from pointing to places like the University of Austin and saying that this is what higher education should look like? What if big funders move their donation to places like Austin instead of the public land-grant or smaller universities?
To me, it just seems like the university-level version of the public school versus charter school debate, a slippery slope that could eventually end up resulting in a further decline in public university funding from state legislation and a further reliance on donors who may have other interests at heart than philanthropy.
Shaun Turner writes and teaches in Kentucky. A WVU alum, he received his MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) in 2016.