Robert Zimmer and Steven Pinker quit the University of Austin

Here is Robert Zimmer’s statement:

And here is Steven Pinker’s statement on Twitter:

Can’t say I blame either of them, to be honest. While I think a new university devoted to truth is a fantastic idea, the Trustees made some unforced errors by inviting a range of non-academics as advisers, as well as Heather Heying and Sohrab Ahmari.

I do hope they learn from the early mis-step and go on to future success.

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What’s wrong with that? Some non-academic fresh air might be just what’s needed.

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Indeed, that is more or less the point here, that academia has defined its own mission, in self-serving ways, over recent decades. And as I look at the roster of the board of advisors, it is still heavily academic, though offset by a few journalists and authors. I might agree with @Claire that Heather Haying’s primary claim to fame is being in a controversy, and that her academic work isn’t notable. As for Sohrab Ahmari, he’s certainly heterodox, and an astute observer of society. The fact that he is unashamedly is not a classical liberal shouldn’t disqualify him.

Yeah, what’s the point of being overly strict about someone’s lack of ‘our’ idea of orthodoxy when the whole idea is to get away from that kind of thinking anyway? Ok, so Heather is a covid heretic and it doesn’t look good, but some of my best friends are heretics. Heretics can be fun to have around. It would also be cool for them to have a few ordinary people. And how about a few members of other species? Dolphins often add something useful to a conversation. Scientists? Of course. And they should ask the cleaning lady to sit in on board meetings too.

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That’s the second time Pinker has had to do a public about face on this issue. The first time was regarding his initial support of Will Knowland (sacked teacher at Eton).
Poor bastard, his good faith commitment to free expression is obviously getting exploited by the pretend free speech mob to carry water for their nefarious not so free speech narratives that he doesn’t realise till he reads the fine print…
I’d love to know exactly who & what sent him over the edge.

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For me it comes back to the purpose of a university.

I’m a journalist, so I have nothing against journalists per se. But we operate in a different environment than do scholars. We are used to prosecuting our case via the effective deployment of language, much like lawyers or the captains of the debating teams.

Scholars, on the other hand should be oriented towards discovery, not prosecution or even debate. It’s the difference between being a ‘scout’ and a ‘soldier’. The problem with Austin U, in my view was that there were or are too many soldiers, not enough scouts.

This is a good analysis from Bradley Campbell:

“If the University of Austin’s goal is to be a high-quality liberal arts university, one challenge it faces is the large number of people affiliated with the project who aren’t academics or aren’t known for their academic research… This isn’t necessarily a problem: if the culture they are criticising is causing intolerance in universities, it makes sense to include a preponderance of founding members who are willing to resist that culture. But it could become a problem. For one thing, it is not a substitute for the academic expertise that every university needs. Most of what happens at a university—most of what’s taught and researched—has (or should have) nothing to do with current political issues—whether wokeism, anti-wokeism or anything else.”

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Sure, but balance is good. Alternative viewpoints keep everyone on their intellectual toes. Perhaps wokeness might have been kept at bay had there been less stagnation and insularity in the academic world. Besides, pursuing some academic discipline and overseeing the university as a whole are different tasks. In the same way that, in the US anyway, fighting wars is left to the military, but oversight of the military is always in civilian hands. I like the idea of ‘civilian’ oversight of the university in about the same way.

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No, I think that’s a false distinction. Scholars in older times were not focused on ‘discovery’, on the Eureka moment, but on understanding and explanation. The latinate title ‘doctor’ is given to a teacher. In the Catholic Church, there are certain saints who are recognized as ‘doctors of the church’, to be reepsected for thgeir teachers, and their teaching respected. In the modern era, we have cheapened the title of ‘doctor’, to where it is simply an uber-meister, a great master of perhaps a narrow subject, and the typical PhD dissertation (mine included) is merely a proof of the ability to find particular question, do some research, and wrestle it to the ground. The doctorate certifies the ability to do research within boundaries. It says little of the ability to discover, elucidate and teach from a higher perspective. The fact that we have lots of newly minted PhDs who can’t find decent teaching jobs might suggest thatnot all of them are qualified for real ‘teaching’.

Some journalists are excellent observers of the human condition, and excellent story-tellers. Some might even be good teachers. But the test here is that a good teacher has a point of view, and can explain that point of view, and can argue it with some other points of view. An undergraduate university should have good story-tellers, teaching the human condition.

For UATX, the jury is still out.

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This was certainly the case when I went to Uni (full disclosure, I’m old), however “story telling” has increasingly been replaced with indoctrination, even if only a fraction of what I’ve read in publications like Quillette is to be believed in regards to the state of academia.

My naïve view on the matter would steer me to believe that dissenting voices be they from the student body or the faculty are essential to teaching critical thought and as such should be wholly encouraged at the University level.

If as Claire suggests it should be purely discovery, aka just the fact ma’am then we’ve lost something we may never get back. After all there’s nothing stopping me from picking up a book and reading it. It’s another to do that and then argue your opinion of the book in a tutorial. If a student can’t do that for fear of running foul of the Story Teller’s narrative then yes the Academy is dead, may it rot in Hell.

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I applaud the founders of UATX for moving beyond criticism of the illiberal trends within higher education to providing a constructive alternative. While I wish them well, I think they may be underestimating how difficult it is to overcome all of the bureaucratic obstacles (especially those involving accreditation) to establish a new university. At best, UATX will serve maybe a few thousand students once it’s up and running in five to ten years. Perhaps a critical mass of other educational entrepreneurs will follow suit and we’ll have a real, viable alternative to the status quo, but I’m skeptical that this can be achieved. In my view, organizations like FIRE and Heterodox Academy will continue to have a greater impact. Of course, these efforts are not mutually exclusive, as Haidt’s involvement in both UATX and HxA attests.

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Touche Doc. Mere ‘discovery’ is far from the entire mandate of a university. I myself think of the university as a citadel of civilization – a preserver as much as or more than a researcher. That’s why I have this semi-joke: The University of Whiteness – the central goal is the preservation of civilization, which is what ‘whiteness’ is.

No doubt the established woke orthodoxy will try to stifle them in their cradle. Still, the very fact of the challenge is already a victory of sorts. Once more into the breach. As King Harry sorta explained, you might die, but at least you die with friends and in a good cause. IOW, if UATX has the gonads to take a stand, then others might be emboldened to do the same. Mind, my preferred strategy would be to take over existing institutions that are on their knees rather than … well … both actually. Yes, why pick one, when you can have both?

I think we should give them a few minutes to iron out some wrinkles.

Even if this effort fails (and I hope it doesn’t) a strong statement about the politicization of academia has been made.

No doubt you are right about that, however it seems like the majority of people employed at other universities aren’t academics.

Harvard University General Information

Harvard University is a private (not-for-profit), 4 or more years institute located in Cambridge, MA. Total 2,455 faculties (instructional staffs) are working for Harvard University including both full-time and part-time faculties. The average faculty salary is 188,515 for academic year 2020-2021. You can check salary information in detail at faculty salary by academic rank.

For non-instructional staffs, total 19,178 employees are working for Harvard University including both full-time and part-time. The average non-instructional staff salary is 88,806 and you can more staff salary information at salary by occupation page.

The has a total enrollment of 30,391 including undergraduate and graduate schools and student to faculty ratio is 7 to 1. It is a Research University (very high research activity) by Carnegie Classification and its highest degree is Doctor’s degree - research/scholarship and professional practice.

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staffs? Do gooses poop on their lawns?

How would a dolphin know?

A doctor asks a patient in a psych ward
Do you see things that aren’t really there?
Patient responds
How would I know?”

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Know what? That there’s no such word as ‘staffs’? Or ‘knowledges’. If I ran the country anyone who said knowledges to me would be given six lashes summarily and dismissed from any job they might hold in academia, government or education. Even dolphin’s famous good humor has it’s limits. Staffs my asss.

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If I can find the article I copied that from again I will be certain to let them know .

ETA: looks like it’s from the actual staff at Harvard. Maybe they would consider letting a few DEI folks go and replace them with…English teachers? Just a thought.

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Here’s a somewhat balanced perspective from Politico.

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I grumble. Yes the anti-woke are taking a preening position of moral superiority, how is that avoidable? Naturally UATX will firstly and mostly attract righties and centerists but I will be hoping to see a few sane lefties as well. Of course they take a combative stance, how could they do otherwise given the current climate? The Politio article falls flat IMHO. Besides, as the Chinese say, let a hundred flowers bloom – we have no end of schools dedicated to wokeness, why not one or two dedicated to classical liberal civilization?

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