Socialist Worker

The ‘anti-woke’ university will provide a safe haven for bigots

A new US university, whose founding staff include Kathleen Stock, is building on a right wing tradition, says Sam Ord

Issue No. 2781

UATX will offer students forbidden subjects

UATX will offer students "forbidden subjects"


A group of “anti-woke” academics are launching a new “university” that currently has no campus, is unaccredited and cannot offer any degrees.

The University of Austin (UATX)—not to be confused with the University of Texas at Austin—was recently founded for the “fearless pursuit of truth”.

It’s the right’s latest project to tackle “cancel culture”.

This is the outrageous claim that the left is preventing “free speech”.

Most of those making such claims have limitless access to the media and endless invitations to speak at meetings, conferences and other events.

Meanwhile the people who really face repression are those who, for example, want to protest at Israel’s racism.

Bullying

One founder of UATX is Bari Weiss who resigned from the New York Times claiming her “wrongthink” opened her up to bullying from colleagues.

She received support from far right figures such as Donald Trump JR and racist online agitator, Ben Shapiro.

One founding UATX faculty member is Kathleen Stock, a trans critical professor formerly based at the University of Sussex.

Their free speech and ours
Their free speech and ours
  Read More

Stock resigned on her own accord, following student protests in defence of trans rights.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has won international attention as a critic of Islam, is another founding faculty fellow. And so is Anthony Sullivan.

Ali recently claimed “wokeism” has “remarkable similarities” to white supremacy and Sullivan faced opposition for speaking approvingly of arguments that race and intelligence are linked.

The appetite for an anti‑woke university is significant. The idea that universities are lost to the left, anti-democratic and anti‑patriotic is peddled by right wing politicians.

Former US President Donald Trump tweeted last year, “Too many universities and school systems are about radical left indoctrination, not education.”

Two years earlier Trump had been forced to accept a £20 million settlement with students who said they were duped by Trump and his defunct Trump University.

It had promised to teach them the “secrets of success” in the real estate industry.

Alternative universities are nothing new for the US right.

In 1927 the Bob Jones University in South Carolina was founded to uphold Christian ideology and was opposed to the teaching of evolution in schools.

Bob Jones Senior wrote in 1960 that black people should be grateful for being captured as slaves because otherwise “they might still be over there in the jungles of Africa, unconverted”.

It did not admit black students until the 1970s. Then, for a 30-year period, it prohibited interracial dating among students. In the mid-20th century the right founded many academies to uphold racial segregation.

Hundreds of these schools opened across the country after the 1954 supreme court ruling that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.

Dozens still survive, with a token enrolment of black students.

Liberty University (LU) in Virginia was founded in 1971 to pursue evangelical Christian thinking. The university is a major stage for right wing reactionaries.

LU is quick to cite “free speech” to enable racist and fascist speakers onto its stage. But the free speech only applies to the right.

Democratic

In 2009 LU banned the Democratic Party student club as it “stands against the moral principles” of LU.

UATX provides a haven for right wing academics, journalists and politicians who are offended by not being able to say anything they like using the guise of academic freedom.

They don’t like being held to account for the impact of their views and the damage they cause.

UATX will launch a programme of “forbidden courses” that aims to incite “discussion about the most provocative questions that often lead to censorship”.

The UATX project will provide an academic platform for reactionary and bigoted ideas to thrive with hardly any opposition.


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