Bari Weiss and co. unveiled their latest, and possibly greatest, weapon in their war against not getting lots of money for doing bullshit: a real, actual university where COOL people can go to have the COOL discussions the normal schools keep shutting down! Well, asterisk asterisk asterisk on all of that, but it’s some kind of a thing! I have just some brief thoughts:
- Yes, I know, don’t feed the beast, the attention is what these people want. But come on. Come ON. Have you seen this thing? I can’t help myself.
- It’s “interesting” that a bunch of people who have spent what now feels like the last 6500 years moaning about the evils of intellectual safe spaces are now…creating their own intellectual safe space, and doing it in the most transparently scammy way possible.
- Because this is Scam Central Station! The Scam Train is arriving imminently, making all local stops!
- Wait, I have to back up here, because we have to first talk about the name of this thing, the University of Austin, or UATX. (I tried saying “UATX” out loud in a couple of different variations and it all sounded like I was having a mild stroke.) Do these geniuses know that there is already a pretty big and famous place with “university” and “Austin” in its name? Did they ever think that might be, y’know, an issue? Or was the point to name this whatever-it-is so similarly to a real and reputable school that people might confuse the two? Either way, a great sign.
- OK, back to what this thing actually is. The statement that Weiss posted to her Substack, by a college-adjacent person named Pano Kanelos, goes on and on about free inquiry and illiberalism and hits all the points you would expect from this crowd, but that doesn’t quite get to the issue of what we are dealing with here. Turns out it would be more accurate to ask what this thing isn’t. It’s calling itself a university but….
6. So it’s not accredited, and you can’t get a degree, but it is a university? That makes sense.
7. What you can do, since you won’t be getting a degree, is hang out with all the great people associated with this venture. They’re a fun group! You’ve got transphobia icon Kathleen Stock, women’s education advocate and Jeffrey Epstein compatriot Larry Summers, phrenology enthusiast Andrew Sullivan, Islamophobic power couple Niall Ferguson and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, David Mamet, for some reason…the list goes on. Who wouldn’t want to take classes with these superstars? If you say “I would rather have a drill make a thorough examination of the inside of my skull,” it’s because you’re intellectually closed off.
8. Well, I say “classes,” but there appears to be just one “class” on the horizon:
This is exciting stuff! When I’m asked about my higher education I want to be able to reply, “it was great, David Mamet led a great discussion about using the n-word in daily life and then Andrew Sullivan asked us each to write a nice thinkpiece about our favorite kind of brow shape!” The working stiffs of America deserve to stop being patronized by liberal elites! Instead, they need to start being patronized by a group of reprobates who will land them with nothing but a bill and a meaningless piece of paper that tells them that they are intellectually rebellious, whatever that’s worth.
9. Oh, and I have to wonder: will one of the “forbidden” things on the agenda be “Palestinians are human beings?” Because we know Bari doesn’t like that argument.
10. This is where I must point out that free speech warrior Weiss first came to prominence trying to cancel pro-Palestinian professors she disagreed with, in case you needed reminding that these people might not be totally on the level.
11. The people funding this thing—who openly say they are trying to get $250 million for their project, some of which will come from poor ordinary souls—also seem great, and the organization seems really trustworthy!
11. On some level, you have to appreciate the raw shamelessness at work here. This is the campus warrior project stripped to its essentials: the same group of people in a room together yelling about how nobody will listen to them, and asking you for money while they do it.
12. I won’t predict whether the University of Austin will “succeed” or not, because any “success” other than personal financial success is meaningless to this crew. They are jumping from one thinly-veiled grift to the next, hoovering up cash as they go, and hoping that enough people will buy into the idea that their latest scheme is anything other than a vehicle for their own enrichment. Based on the state of the world, that’s a pretty decent bet on their part.
Update, 3:13 pm ET: lmao