A controversial college coming to Austin stirred surprised reactions when plans for the institution were announced Monday.
The liberal arts school is known as The University of Austin, or UATX, and currently lacks any accreditation and a physical campus, though its headquarters are at 2112 Rio Grande St. While accreditation can take years, the school's website says their conversations with accredited partners "lead us to believe that we'll have a much shorter time frame than that."
In a lengthy 1,600 word Substack post referencing George Orwell's "thought crimes" and Frederick Douglass' vision for learning, incoming president Pano Kanelos described higher education in the U.S. as "fractured" and outlined her vision for a new type of university where students will be taught "classical principles of leadership and market foundations."
She cites that four out of five American Ph.D. students are willing to discriminate against right-leaning scholars and that currently university students are unwilling to participate in the "core activity of democratic governance."
We got sick of complaining about how broken higher education is. So we decided to do something about it.
Announcing a new university dedicated to the fearless pursuit of truth: @uaustinorg:https://t.co/ZqRLXcF2n0
— Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) November 8, 2021
Classes could start as early as next summer, with plans for a program known as "forbidden courses" where students will discuss censorship, according to the post. Then next fall, the school aims to launch master's programs in entrepreneurship and leadership. An undergraduate program with courses ranging from philosophy to economics is planned for fall 2024.
Kanelos arrived in Austin three months ago after leaving a position as president of St. John's College in Annapolis. She and other founders nodded to Elon Musk and Joe Rogan as inspiration for the site of the new school, and described Austin as "a hub for builders, mavericks and creators."
As the Daily Beast reported, the school is "fiscally sponsored" by Cicero Research, a nonprofit affiliated with Joe Lonsdale, who cofounded data-mining company Palantir.
The university has said it will not factor race, gender or class into admission decisions. In recent years, Austin has seen fights over affirmative action. In 2016, the Supreme Court rejected Abigail Fisher's challenge to a race-conscious admissions program at the University of Texas. Shortly after, the Young Conservatives of Texas hosted a bake sale where they assigned prices based on the buyer's race and gender.
Besides admissions, Kanelos also noted concern that academics face being ousted for "having a wrong opinion about hot-button issues such as immigration or gender differences." Kanelos' colleague, American journalist Bari Weiss, who she referenced as an early collaborator for the university, has a history of ousting attempts in academia. As an undergraduate at Columbia, Weiss was part of a campaign that suggested criticisms of Israel, in particular those made by Arab professors, were racist.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, the school has received funds to start, but is currently looking for $250 million more and will institute a funding model that outsources student affairs, athletics and other extraneous services.
A big-money bird has been stolen from a northwest Austin pet store.
Kelsey Fernandez, the owner of a $6,000 sulphur and citron-crested cockatoo named Lemon Grab, said the emotional support animal was taken from the Gallery of Pets store, around closing time on Sunday.
"I've struggled with mental illness my entire life, and ever since I got him I've been doing so much better," Fernandez told Austonia.
The $6k cockatoo is young and will starve unless he is fed by hand, Fernandez said.
In a surveillance video, a man appears to have something under his shirt as he and two others exit the business around the same time the store believes that Lemon Grab was stolen.
Fernandez said a report has been filed with the Austin Police Department with an $1,000 reward for his return.
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Introverts and personal space lovers may not want to make the move to Austin anytime soon: The Texas capital saw a bigger increase in one-bedroom rent prices than almost any other U.S. city in April, according to a Rent.com report.
Austin's one-bedroom rent has more than doubled—a 112% increase—from April 2021 to 2022, the report said. Only Oklahoma City saw a higher year-over-year increase with a 133% jump.
Austin also had the fourth-highest increase in two-bedroom rent, with a 50% increase in the past year. The city joined a nationwide trend where rents were up 8.3% year-over-year across the U.S, a trend exacerbated by a 6.2% increase in inflation in the same time period.
But "not everyone is experiencing inflation the same way," Redfin Deputy Chief Economist Taylor Marr said in the report, and a brunt of the load has gone to cities with more move-ins. While over 90% of state rental markets increased in the last year, that jump was seen most in Sun Belt states, including Texas, Arizona and Florida.
Even with breakneck increases in rent, however, Austin's rent prices still haven't cracked the top 10: the city's one-bedroom apartments are the 12th most expensive in the nation with an average price of $2,918. Meanwhile, its two-bedrooms fall behind Texas cities Frisco, Dallas and Plano and come out 34th on the list with a $2,302 average monthly rent.
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