Former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss announced the opening of The University of Austin, a new four-year institution with the mission of “the fearless pursuit of truth” last year. The first summer program, “The Forbidden Courses,” started last month and welcomed 80 students from colleges around the US.
“This is an insanely intelligent group of people — a genuinely thoughtful, bold group of kids. And it bodes very, very well for the future of the institution,” Peter Boghossian, University of Austin founding faculty member, explained.
The professor is known for developing conversational strategies to encourage individuals to think more critically about strongly held views in his “Street Epistemology” course at the University of Austin.
The summer session will last for two weeks, during which students will attend seminars like “How to Be Liberal in an Illiberal Age,” taught by Weiss, and “Critical Thinking and Freedom of Expression,” taught by feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
“The Psychology of Social Status” is taught by Rob Henderson, an author who described woke ideology as “luxury beliefs.” Henderson stated one thing that brought his students together: – when asked how many of them withheld their opinions due to fear of social repercussions, nine out of ten raised their hands.
“Whenever I spoke with students, they seemed relieved to interact with others in an environment where they didn’t have to fear being ostracized,” Henderson said. “I don’t think they wanted to be in an environment where everyone agreed with them. They really wanted to be free to disagree. I’ve never seen so much intense good-faith discussion in any academic environment before.”
The University of Austin should set new standards for liberal arts education in the country, according to three students who participated in the summer program who spoke about their experiences.
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Hanna Nour, a graduate of the University of Central Florida and an ex-Muslim atheist, said: “As a society, we aren’t allowed to criticize Islam because of political correctness. I was labeled as an Islamophobe, which was grossly insulting as a person whose family is Muslim.”
“I realized that ‘wokeism’ was treating me in the same way that my former religion of Islam had treated me — with confinement and a sense that I would be told what to do, what to say, and even what to think.”
Sophia Sadikman, a senior at Brown University, noted: “College, frankly, has been kind of disappointing for me. I had high hopes that it would be this incredible four years of enrichment and personal growth, but sadly I found a lack of real eagerness to learn and a lack of ideological diversity both inside and outside the classroom.”
Widener Norris, a freshman at the University of Georgia, stated his concern about the academic community’s growing intolerance of free thought.
“I’m concerned about the apparent lack of viewpoint diversity,” he said.
The 18-year-old says he loves debating taboo topics:
“We would debate very controversial issues, like whether transgender women are women,” he claimed. “To even bring up such a topic would be considered cancelable in most [places], but we were able to have a civil and critical discussion. I was really just astounded by people’s thirst for actual debate. Everyone at this program came from completely different political and social backgrounds, but we were really united in the sense that we craved genuine discussion.”