'Thought criminals': Aggrieved conservative elites announce new university dedicated to 'truth' — but who’s funding Ii?

'Thought criminals': Aggrieved conservative elites announce new university dedicated to 'truth' — but who’s funding Ii?
Bari Weiss, image via Screengrab.

Bari Weiss. Andrew Sullivan. Jonathan Rauch. Larry Summers.

Those are some of the more recognizable names a new university launched Monday lists on the front page of its website.

Its founder says some of them have been "treated like thought criminals."

The University of Austin (which sounds remarkably like The University of Texas at Austin, founded in 1883,) in an announcement says it is "dedicated to the fearless pursuit of truth." It is not currently accredited and offers no degrees.

But some of the people it is attracting have highly-controversial backgrounds. Indeed, some, like Weiss and Sullivan, seem to thrive on creating controversy.

It's clear, from its founder's message, that this is an enterprise dedicated to protect those who use their huge platforms to decry being "canceled."

"Nearly a quarter of American academics in the social sciences or humanities endorse ousting a colleague for having a wrong opinion about hot-button issues such as immigration or gender differences," Pano Kanelos, the former president of St. Jophn's Universioty and apparently the founder of The University of Austin, writes Monday at Bari Weiss' Substack. "Over a third of conservative academics and PhD students say they had been threatened with disciplinary action for their views. Four out of five American PhD students are willing to discriminate against right-leaning scholars, according to a report by the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology."

Kanelos discusses some of the University's founding faculty – a prerequisite appears to be having been subjected to criticism.

"On our quads, faculty are being treated like thought criminals. Dorian Abbot, a University of Chicago scientist who has objected to aspects of affirmative action, was recently disinvited from delivering a prominent public lecture on planetary climate at MIT. Peter Boghossian, a philosophy professor at Portland State University, finally quit in September after years of harassment by faculty and administrators. Kathleen Stock, a professor at University of Sussex, just resigned after mobs threatened her over her research on sex and gender."

Its FAQ answers the question "Why Austin?" by jokingly replying: "If it's good enough for Elon Musk and Joe Rogan, it's good enough for us."

The big question of course is who is funding this endeavor? The "University" says it will have a physical campus.

That's expensive, as is paying top names.

"We have secured the seed money necessary to launch the university. But we are in the process of securing $250 million, which will enable us to grow into a comprehensive university," it says.

"UATX has requested and is awaiting a tax-exempt determination from the IRS. At present, UATX is fiscally sponsored by Cicero Research, a tax-exempt entity organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code."

An online search for "Cicero Research" nets almost nothing, except a one page listing on Cause IQ, a company to help nonprofits grow.

According to that filing for the year ending December 2020, Cicero Research has no full-time employees, no assets, but under "characteristics" is tagged "political advocacy."

Who's actually funding this is currently unknown.

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