New university dedicated to free speech will counter colleges 'hijacked by maniacs,' founding member says

WATCH NOW: Former Portland State prof talks new gig at University of Austin

Hundreds of college professors pleaded to join a new university dedicated to free speech just hours after it was announced, a founding faculty member told Fox News on Monday.

The University of Austin – a newly founded college announced on Bari Weiss’ substack Monday – is committed to “freedom of inquiry, freedom of conscience, and civil discourse,” according to the school’s website. Its primary founders are vocal critics of the direction traditional academic institutions have taken.

Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX
(Texas Legislature )

“One fellow even said ‘I’m caught in an insane asylum, everybody’s gone crazy, I will work for half,” a founding faculty fellow and former Portland State University professor, Peter Boghossian, told Fox News in an exclusive interview. “They’re desperate to get out. They can’t stand the illiberalism.”

“They can’t stand the censoriousness, they can’t stand the diversity statements,” he continued. “They can’t stand pretending to believe something that not only do they not believe, they just know it is false, but they can’t do anything about it lest they receive accusations of bigotry or discrimination.”

Boghossian said the new school is not conservative.

“The purpose of the university, it’s based upon free speech, free inquiry, the open exchange of ideas. It is an on-ground campus,” Boghossian told Fox News.

“This has people from all over the intellectual, political, moral spectrum,” he said. “When I say intellectual spectrum, I mean they’ve published different things, scholarly outlooks, different epistemologies, different ways to approach problems, and it’s needed because our institutions now have been hijacked by maniacs.”

“It’s not liberals who have taken over the institutions,” Boghossian added. “It’s authoritarians who have taken over the institutions–traditional academic institutions.”

Dr. Peter Boghossian, a philosopher associated with Portland State, attends the lecture. Mary Grabar presented a polemic against Howard Zinn’s 1980’s ‘People’s History of the United States’ at a colloquy of the Oregon Association of Scholars presented at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon on Jan. 22, 2020. Grabar and PSU Professor Bruce Gilley are associates of the National Association of Scholars, a conservative organization which claims to support free and open discourse in universities, and which opposes ‘political correctness.’ (Photo by John Rudoff/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)
(John Rudoff/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

The University of Austin is seeking accreditation and isn’t currently offering degrees, according to its website. Boghossian told Fox News the process takes time and called the first courses “pilot programs.”

“We are done waiting for the legacy universities to right themselves,” University of Austin President Pano Kanelos wrote in the article posted in Weiss’ newsletter. “And so we are building anew.”

Bari Weiss, a former New York Times columnist, famously quit the liberal paper in a scathing resignation letter that claimed she was bullied by colleagues in an "illiberal environment." 

University of Austin is a private, nonprofit institution sponsored by Cicero Research, itself a nonprofit organization. The university will begin offering master’s programs in fall 2022 and plans to launch an undergraduate college in 2024, according to the school’s website.

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