The “University of Austin” Grift Isn’t New

“Ralston College” did it first

L.D. Burnett

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Academic twitter is having a field day mocking the grandiose announcement, via Bari Weiss’s substack, of the formation of a new “university” whose raison d’etre will be to stand against “woke mobs,” “cancel culture,” and whatever other gimmicky jargon its “founding faculty” can use to signal their utter panic that higher education is no longer solely for, nor shaped solely by, rich white people.

The “university,” which at this point pretty much exists only on twitter, is calling itself University of Austin (because Austin College, an actual outstanding liberal arts college in Sherman, Texas, was already taken).

The university’s founding luminaries, which include the likes of Steven Pinker and Niall Ferguson and some substack writers, are hoping that their donor base will forget the existence of a similar venture, a shadow college that exists only on paper, Ralston College.

“Founded” in 2010—which I think just means they bought a web domain, but I can’t say for sure—Ralston College still has not enrolled a class of students here in the year of our laughter 2021. I only knew it existed because Roger Kimball, who gets a footnote in my book-in-progress, is listed on its Board of Visitors, along with Jordan Peterson and some D-list conservative…

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L.D. Burnett

Writer and historian from / in California’s Great Central Valley. Book, “Western Civilization: The History of an American Idea,” under contract w/ UNC Press.