Remaking Higher Education: The Atlas Society Asks Pano Kanelos

December 06, 2023 01:01:10
Remaking Higher Education: The Atlas Society Asks Pano Kanelos
The Atlas Society Presents - The Atlas Society Asks
Remaking Higher Education: The Atlas Society Asks Pano Kanelos

Dec 06 2023 | 01:01:10

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Show Notes

Join CEO Jennifer Grossman for the 182nd episode of The Atlas Society Asks, where she meets with Dr. Pano Kanelos, the founding president of the University of Austin, to talk about free speech and a new model for higher education.

Dr. Pano Kanelos is the founding president of the University of Austin (UATX), a new higher education institution founded on the belief that colleges need fewer administrators and more intellectual openness committed to freedom of inquiry, freedom of conscience, and civil discourse. An outspoken advocate for liberal arts education, Pano argues that mainstream universities have abandoned reason and shares how UATX “prepares thoughtful and ethical innovators, builders, leaders, and citizens through fair-minded open inquiry.”

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the 182nd episode of the Atlas Society. Asks. My name is Jennifer Anju Grossman. You guys and my friends know me as Jag. I am the CEO of the Atlas Society. We are the leading nonprofit, engaging young people with the ideas of Ayn Rand in fun, creative ways. Our graphic novel levels our animated videos, even now, our AI animated videos. So stay tuned for that. Today we are joined by Pano Canelos. Before I even begin to introduce our guest, I want to remind all of you who are watching us on Zoom, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, X, LinkedIn, YouTube. You can use the comment section to type in your questions. So go ahead, get started, and we'll put you in the queue. So our guest today, Dr. Pano Canelos, is the founding president of the University of Austin, a new higher education institution founded on the belief that colleges need fewer administrators and more intellectual openness. Committed to freedom of inquiry, freedom of conscience, and civil discourse. He previously served as president of St. John's College, Annapolis, and earned degrees from Northwestern University and Boston University, along with a PhD from the University of Chicago, he is an outspoken advocate for liberal arts education. Pano argues that mainstream universities have abandoned these values and hopes that to help that with uATX students to become adept thinkers and engaged and innovative citizens. Pano, thanks for joining us. [00:01:48] Speaker B: What a great pleasure to be here. Thanks for inviting me. My only question for you is how come it took you 182 episodes to invite me? [00:01:55] Speaker A: We were saving the best for later. We were practicing, you see, we wanted to make sure that we were out of our beta phase, that we had proof of concept, because interviewing somebody of your esteemed background wanted to make sure we had our ducks in a row. And plus, I understand you have some interesting news to share, some new milestones. So there's a little bit more meat on the bones. Why don't we just start off with that? Tell us about the good news. [00:02:28] Speaker B: Sure. Well, again, thank you for having me. As part of this conversation, I'm very excited to share some recent developments at the University of Austin. And just to give everybody a little bit of background, the University of Austin began as a project just two years ago, november 2021. In fact, we made our public announcement on November eigth, 2021. We told the world that we're building a new university, that we were going to build a university dedicated to fearless pursuit of truth. And exactly two years later, on November eigth, 2023, we opened up applications for our first class of freshmen, our first freshman cohort. So in under two years, we have received authorization from the state of Texas to be America's newest university. We're officially a university now and proudly the first new university in the state of Texas in 60 years. 1963 was the last time a new private university was formed. And I would say that in of itself, that particular data point says a lot about what some of the problems facing higher education are. I mean, if in a place like Texas, which has grown from 10 million people in 1963 to 30 million today, there have been no new institutions, private institutions before ours, it says something about how difficult it is to start universities in the United States of today and how hungry the country is. I think for new institutions that are going to provide new ways of thinking about higher education. [00:04:13] Speaker A: Tell us a little bit about the applicants. How is that going? Where are they coming from? Was it from Texas? [00:04:20] Speaker B: So it's really exciting. So one of the challenges we faced at a new university is we were literally not allowed to market to a single student before we received authorization from Texas to be a university. So unlike most schools where you're cultivating your student pipeline for years and they finally apply, we just sort of turned on the lights and said we're open for business. So we didn't know what to expect. So 09:30 A.m. On November eigth, we officially sent out notification that we were opening applications for our first class. 09:31 A.m., we received our first application, and it's been an unabated stream since then. In fact, we're only recruiting for the first class. We call them the founding 100 students, the Brave 100 for the very first class. We received over 100 applications that very first day. And they're coming from all over the country, all over the world. Very exciting. Like, bright maverick students. So really pleased. [00:05:25] Speaker A: And when does the application window close? [00:05:29] Speaker B: That's a good question. So it's rolling applications because not having any historical record of how many applications we were going to receive as an institution, we sort of opened up the door and we said, we're giving each of the first 100 students a full four year tuition scholarship. So we've raised money for that. So we're limited capped off the number of students we have. So as soon as we've accepted our 1st 100 students and they've accepted our offer, the door will close. So it may be a matter of months, it may be longer. We don't know how long the process is going to take. [00:06:07] Speaker A: All right, so all of you watching, if you have children or grandchildren who are applying to college or are going to be doing that in the next year or so, we're going to put the links on where to do that in the chat across the platforms, because, wow, what a neat, historic opportunity to be a part of this project. I think that would be pretty cool. And hopefully 100 years from now, people will be looking back and they'll be going to their because of all of our exponential advancing technologies, they'll be going to their 100th college reunion. [00:06:54] Speaker B: It's funny. One of the things I tell students who are prospective students who I speak to all the time, is you have a unique opportunity here to think about it. You don't get a chance just to go to a university, but you get a chance to found a university with us. How many students get to found their own alma mater, get to be there right there, day one, and then play a role in creating the culture of the institution and laying the groundwork for future generations. So it is an historic moment and it's a great honor. As you mentioned earlier, I had been president of a place called St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, which was the third oldest is the third oldest college United States. It was founded in 1696. So I've gone from being the president of the third oldest college in the US. To being president of America's newest university. And that's really cool. [00:07:42] Speaker A: That is amazing. So thinking back even before you were a college freshman, tell us a little bit about where you grew up and any early influences that set you on your path. Obviously, you're an advocate for the great books, any books that you were reading as a young man that really resonated with you. [00:08:12] Speaker B: Sure. Well, I probably have one of the least likely pathways to becoming a college president because I grew up in a family. My parents grew up in a Greek immigrant family. My parents were not educated people. Neither had even neither had attended a university. And my mom had sort of the equivalent of a high school degree. My father less than that. Nobody in my family had ever been to college before I attended college. So for me, going to university was just a massive leap of faith and I didn't know what to expect and what I would encounter when I arrived there. But as a young person growing up in the back of my dad's Greek diner, I just read a lot of books. I loved reading. I spent a lot of time just with my nose between the pages, in between, like peeling potatoes and slicing onions because I had to do all that stuff as well and reading. And I was very, very attracted as a young person to poetry, surprisingly, and drama. I loved language that was expressive, language that was inverse, language that was heightened and so spent quite a bit of time with mean. One of my favorite early pleasures was reading like Hopkins and Tennyson sort of very musical, lyrical English poets. I just love that. Wasn't exactly sure I knew what they meant all the time, but I thought the language was really fascinating and it may have come from growing up in a sort of kind of micro cultural environment in a very Greek community where English wasn't the first language for most of the people I was around. So just grabbing onto that and finding pleasure and it was really great. [00:10:08] Speaker A: If there is one constant among all of our guests here on the Outlet Society asks is that every single one recalls just having their nose in books as a child. And it reminds us how that habit of reading is foundational for living a productive life, living a life of inquiry and keeping one curious. And it's also a reason that I not thrilled about the fact that in the late seventy s, seventy percent of young people were reading books every day just for fun. So it wasn't that unusual back then. These were books they were reading not because they were assigned at school, but just because that was fun for them. That percentage today is down to 12%, so that's a huge drop. And it's particularly challenging for a group like ours that are trying to encourage people to read not just any books, but the books of Ayn Rand and her two major books are quite the tomes. So as a result, that's where we get creative, because the whole graphic novel genre, particularly among young people, has exploded. And finding ways, like with our AI animated book trailer of Atlas shrug to market the books and let people know that it's a real adventure. And then also having people on this show that have read Ein Rand, and for many of them, it was a key in a lock. Speaking of second generation Greek Americans, peter Diamandis calls Atlas drugged his Bible and rereads it every few years. So that probably wasn't the case for you. But any takeaways from having read Ein Rand's works? [00:12:22] Speaker B: Yeah, look, I fully understand why, especially for young people, there is that key in the lock. You know, what great books do, and what I think Rand's work does is they pull back the veil. They show you the things that have sort of been hidden from sight, like the way humans function or society functions, or know, there's sort of that moment where you're didn't, I didn't even realize what was hidden from. I think, you know, one of the things that Rand's work does, it presents, sort know, this kind of secret decoder to the way the world is actually operating. And for a lot of young people, I think that's very appealing and enlightening. And I think for me in general, I think the reason that reading is so important, as opposed to, as you said, you said the stat is 12% of young people read books for pleasure. I haven't seen the stats. That sounds just about right to me, given my own experience. And I think the reason that it's so important and so sad that's diminishing is that human beings are creatures of logos. In other words, we're creatures that actually we experience the world through language, right? All the time. We have this constant spool of language going through our head, and even when we're not aware of it, this is the way we come to understand the universe, is by apprehending it through language. And so we're sort of embodied logos. And that's what a book is. A book is an embodiment of logos. It's that spool of language that has come from somebody else's experience, somebody else's head. And being able to encounter that I think is very, very profound and it affects us differently than images do or other ways of apprehending the world. And so spending long periods of concentrated time with lots and lots of language, as you do with Rand's work, which know, as you say, tomes, I think is diving deeply into what it means to be a human. [00:14:39] Speaker A: You know, I remember a conversation that I had with one of our longtime donors, Nancy Greenberg, and asking her about how did she come to discover Ein Rand. And she said she loved reading and she had a summer before her and she wanted a book that was going to keep her company. So she'd see this one book and she said, it's kind of skimpy, that'll last me a couple of weeks. And she saw another book, too lightweight. She saw this big book, didn't have any idea what it was about, but it was a big book. And she's like, oh, this is perfect. This is going to be where I'm going to be living for the rest of the summer. And so times really have changed. And that's why I think it is important to continually to make the case. And of course, your Great Books advocacy, tell us a little bit about that. I understand that was even before you became president of St. John's College. Did that make you stick out a bit as someone countering academic trends of being anti Western canon? [00:15:48] Speaker B: I think so. Look, the case to be made for the Great book seems to me irrefutable. And that is we are all human beings. We're on this planet for a very short while. We're trying to figure out what to make of the world, what to make of ourselves. And yet there's this conversation that's been going on for thousands of years. People asking the same questions that we ask the world. And having access to that conversation, being a participant in that hearing, what people have thought, what they said, what they've proposed about what it means to be a human being, what they've argued about, what the most important issues that have been raised have been and how they've been addressed. To me, participating in that conversation by reading these books and discussing these books, it seems natural, it seems organic, it seems a privilege that we have. And if you don't engage in that, it seems like a tremendous loss of opportunity. People often deride, let's say, the Western tradition or the great books as being somehow too narrow, exclusionary. If you actually jump into tradition and you start reading, you realize that all you encounter is like clashing ideas in 1000 different voices and experiences from across the continents and every possible human manifestation that you can find it's so kaleidoscopic that it really expands what we understand to be what it means to be human. And I would say sometimes I want to say I shy away from the phrase the great books, because that seems limiting to me. I think there are great books, and what we consider the great books are mostly fit that category. There are lots of other books out there that are great books as well. And part of the pleasure of being a curious human being is finding those to read in addition to the ones that are already on the bookshelf. And I think that's where we go beyond just the Western tradition. I'll give an example. One of my great pleasures in life was discovering Japanese. No drama. So no drama is this highly historical, highly ritualistic performed theater that's been preserved over the centuries. And thinking about the way that the Japanese represent themselves through this tradition on stage, versus, let's say, the Shakespearean tradition, which is my background as an academic, that just expands my understanding of the world in both directions. [00:18:45] Speaker A: All right, I want to remind everybody who is watching, we're going to be taking your questions, so start typing them in the comment section, and we're going to get to them shortly. But I still have a few of my own. And Pano, I was thinking, I wish I'd been a fly on the wall at some of those initial conversations with the founding members of the university. I understand there was a meeting at Joe Lawnsdale. And I'm curious, how did you all get started? Where did the sparks come from? How did you guys coalesce? [00:19:21] Speaker B: So I was brought into the conversation at the beginning by Barry. Barry and I had a we didn't know each other. We had a mutual friend named Joshua Katz at Princeton, who was being persecuted at Princeton for his conservative political views, and not even just for a comment he had made in response to some Black Lives Matter activity. And they were doing everything to strip him of his tenure and eject him from the university. And they were ultimately successful at that. So I knew Joshua, and Barry knew Joshua, and she was so angry about what was happening, she asked a friend of hers, like, I need to talk to a college president. I need to find out what's really going on in higher education. So I was connected with her, and we had a zoom call, and we started chatting, and we really saw eye to eye on many of the issues facing higher education. And so towards the end of the call, she's like, Pono. She goes, we need to start a new know. That's the only thing to do these days. We need to start a new university. And I said, Barry, that's great. Let me know when it happens. I'll be on your advisory board. I'll cheer you on. And she's like, no, we need to do this we need to do this and you need to be the president of this new university. And I thought, I got a job, I have kids, I got a family, just drop everything and go start and then she called me out and she said you need to do this because everything happening in higher education is your fault. And I thought, my fault? I'm like, wait, I thought I was one of the good guys, how am I to blame? I said, well you've spent your whole career in higher education, you've become a college president, you've identified what the issues are. If people like you don't step up and do anything about them, who's going to do know? The moral weight of this falls on know. Long story short, I couldn't help but agree that she was we we began through other connections, gathering together with people such as Joe Lonsdale and Neil Ferguson and Arthur Brooks and others and we had a kind of initial meeting in Austin to talk about how realistic the prospect of a new university might be. We all agreed that it was ridiculously audacious project to take on, but that it was absolutely essential that we do so. And given that I was the only one who really had run any institution of this know, I had to call up my wife at the end of our meeting and say, honey, I pack the bags, we're moving to Austin, Texas in a few months. [00:22:14] Speaker A: Amazing. Wow. And look at what you guys have accomplished since then. So it's really breathtaking. Okay, as promised, I'm going to turn to our audience questions. We've got quite a few coming in. Our friend on instagram, My modern Gault, asks from his experience, many community colleges and universities have to spend the first semester just getting students ready to think and learn at a college level. Why do you think that is? And do you think university of Austin will face this same hurdle? [00:22:56] Speaker B: Yeah well, look, I don't think it will surprise anybody to know that the k through twelve system is not functioning as it should. That we are seeing young people graduate out of high school who don't necessarily have the kind of fundamentals that one needs to move into higher education. Some of it has to do with we were talking about earlier, this kind of movement away from a culture of literacy and numeracy to a culture of some kind of immediacy around social media and living a life in a kind of digital format. And that the kind of fundamental skills that underlie learning are lost in the shuffle. Some of it is. Frankly, I think I'm going to probably be criticized by some people for saying this, but that's not the first time I would be criticized for saying something. I think there are too many colleges and universities says the guy opening a new one. Right. So total hypocrite here. But at some point we decided that everybody had to go to college or you had no social value, you had no social status. And that's a ridiculous thing to believe. So we've sort of inflated the nominal value of having a college degree such that everybody feels like they have to go and join a college, a community college or four year university to gain this piece of paper called a diploma in order to assert their kind of social value or social mean. That's utterly absurd. As I said, my own parents were not educated people. I don't know anybody. I have not met a person walking the planet wiser than my five foot two Greek father. All right? So the idea that people feel compelled to go on to college inflates the number of colleges that we have and ultimately sets up so many people for failure. My stats may be slightly off because I haven't looked at them in a while, but I remember at one point it was only six out of every ten people who started working towards a college degree actually earned a college degree. So 40% of the people who started college degrees did not make it. Imagine if you were running a business like a restaurant, like my dad, and only 40% of the people received their food. Right. Your business would collapse pretty quickly. Yet we have a system of higher education in which only 60% of people are coming and receiving what they've come for. That should tell us that there's a systemic problem behind higher education. [00:25:54] Speaker A: Well, one school of thought is that not even a majority of people need to feel compelled to go to a four year college, that some would be better off either going to a trade school or in many cases, just diving into the school of real life and doing internships and getting their feet wet with work experience. So what is the case? Obviously, you must believe in it. Why? It still matters for some people at least, to get a formal liberal arts education as a good foundation for professional life. [00:26:41] Speaker B: Yeah. So the purpose of universities has always been I mean, going all the way back to the medieval origins of universities oxford, Cambridge, Sorbonne, et cetera, has always been to prepare people for the knowledge economy. And what I mean by the knowledge economy sounds like a modern term, but what I mean by that is just for professions whose work is primarily of an intellectual nature. In the medieval times, when Oxford and Cambridge started, the knowledge economy was pretty narrow. There were only three courses of study at Oxford and Cambridge in their early years, and that was theology, law, and medicine. Those were the areas of study where the work was primarily intellectual in nature. And obviously, over time, the scope of professions that are primarily intellectual nature has expanded, and universities serve to prepare graduates to work in that milieu. How do you do that? By essentially cultivating skills of creative and critical thinking, expanding one's capacity to use numbers and language in sophisticated ways. This is the work of a university. Why is a liberal education important as part of this? Because you could just say, well, then all you need to do is go to university and you're going to be a computer scientist. You just need to learn how to code or you're going to be accountant. You just need to learn how to do those things. Because at its deepest level, those people who are going to be working in the knowledge economy are also going to be those people who are generally driving our culture in one direction or another. In other words, they're going to have an outsized role to play in the culture that they're participating in. And so making sure that even as they become very good at computer programming or engineering or as a psychologist or that that they also develop a kind of comprehensive moral matrix understanding what it means to be a human being. There's a societal interest in that. To make sure that our titans of industry, our entrepreneurs, our innovators, our business leaders, our politicians are also intensely thoughtful and well informed human beings. And I think that's the purpose of a liberal education. [00:29:18] Speaker A: All right. On Facebook, Alexander Hirsch asks what do you think is the cause for so many young people dismissing the classics as books just written by old, white dead men? [00:29:35] Speaker B: Well, they are books written by old white dead men, for the most part. So the question is, why dismiss that? That's the question. Look, we live in a culture, let's just call it that. Solipsistic right? The primary value that's promoted is the value of self regard. We are each the center of our own universe. And so what we're teaching young people in particular to lionize is to look for things that reflect themselves back upon themselves, right? To valorize the self. Well, to read a book that's 2000 years old is to enter a very different moment in the human experience, a very different mindset. I mean, there are points of conjunction between a homer and somebody today. There's lots of radical differences. And so what books allow us to do, especially the classics, is to step outside of ourselves and to come to understand the world in a different key and to try and in many ways, let's say, bring that understanding. Into who we are today to sort of change ourselves accordingly in a narcissistic solipsistic what I call the age of eye, the age we live in. We aren't incentivizing young people to be self reflective and to change themselves. We're telling them that they're absolutely wonderful and perfect the way they are. So why bother with those old books? Because they take an awful long time to read. [00:31:15] Speaker A: I might add, of course, chiming in from an objectivist perspective that rather than the age of I, it's also kind of the age of we. So it's no longer. I as an individual who is searching for answers to my questions, finding ways to pursue my happiness. But I am a woman or I am a heterosexual homosexual. I am a black, I am a this, I am a that. I am the group. So I need to read something that represents my group. And also this idea of this postmodern idea of oppressors. And oppressed very kind of warmed over Marxist application that, well, white men are the oppressors and so they kind of get downgraded as well from that perspective. [00:32:16] Speaker B: I think that's right. I think there's a kind of suspicion the current understanding of power dynamics, which I think are radically flawed. I think it's completely wrong to think that all human relations are simply relations of domination and submission. Human relations are much more complicated. Human beings sacrifice themselves. Human beings cooperate. There are lots of things we do that aren't just about power between human beings, but young people are kind of fed this ideological stream that constantly tries to convince them that every human relationship is simply about who's on top and who's on the bottom. So they're suspicious about books, especially old books, that those books are somehow trying to manipulate them or dominate them or uphold the dominant power structure, when in fact, almost every book that we think of as a great book was subversive. Even going back to Homer. I mean, you go all the way back to Homer. The Iliad is not a book that glorifies war or glorifies the Greeks. It makes us think deeply about the cost of war in a culture that was a heroic of it raises our antenna of human sensitivity to look at these things more complexly. So here young people are suspicious, like what is Shakespeare really about? What are his politics? How is he trying to manipulate me? When in fact Shakespeare gives you the very tools you need to see the world in, I think, a more dynamic and objective way? [00:34:03] Speaker A: Interesting. All right. On YouTube, Kingfisher 21 asks free speech appears to be constantly under attack on campus. Many campuses cave due to financial backers threatening to pull funding. How is uATX going to handle this issue of free speech? And how important is that to your mission? [00:34:28] Speaker B: I mean, look, our core mission is a commitment to principles of open inquiry, freedom of conscience, civil discourse, the very foundations, what one thinks of as free speech or academic freedom. That's the lifeblood of our institution. And so we are purposefully creating a university that is not just going to be committed to those principles on paper, but that's going to live those principles out. And to assure that, we have often asked ourselves a question. Lots of institutions say they're committed to free speech or to the pursuit of truth, and yet they all seem to be ratcheting in one direction where they're sort of increasingly becoming the kind of aperture of ideology is sort of. Narrowing further and further, and there are fewer and fewer things you can talk about or question. How are we going to prevent that? We've taken, I think, a kind of simple but maybe inspired route. Our founding documents, the uATX Constitution, articulate very clearly our commitment to open inquiry, civil discourse, intellectual pluralism, all these things. And in order to assure that we stand by our mission and stand by principles, we've instituted something no other university has up to this point. And that is, let's call it a judicial branch of our institution, a Supreme Court, an adjudicative council that exists outside the university, but to which the university is responsible to be. It's going to be comprised of people who are constitutional experts, free speech experts, public intellectuals whose job it is to hear any case that might arise at our university where academic freedom or free speech is compromised. And then we are accountable to that group for whatever they find. So if a faculty member, a student, a member of our staff makes the case that the university or somebody at the university is limiting their ability to speak freely, has punished them for some idea they've shared or something that they've said, it could be taken directly to this body. And whatever that body determines, the university has to abide by. So we're actually putting the instruments of governance around protecting free speech. [00:36:59] Speaker A: All right, these questions might be a little outside your Bailey Wick, but Candice Marinna on Facebook is asking, what do you make of Governor Abbott's push for school choice? Vouchers dovetails into another question from Charles Chamberlain about how difficult might it be to dismantle the teachers unions and the government school monopoly? It's not really your focus is on higher education, but I don't know if you have any thoughts to share on that. [00:37:33] Speaker B: Well, I guess I'll share it from the perspective of higher education. Look, we are starting a new university because we believe that the greater the range of choice is, the better of the whole system will be, right? We believe in creating heterodox institutions, institutions that zig when everybody else is zagging. And I think, in principle, that's good for education at large. I think that principle of choice, the principle of competition, is essential to making sure that the system of higher education and the K through twelve system stay sharp, stay responsive, and allow for innovative ideas to come in, allow for experiments in entrepreneurial endeavors and that. So I think all of this is really key to me. The marketplace of ideas needs a marketplace of institutions, right? [00:38:35] Speaker A: Well, we all know that monopolies, particularly forced monopolies, tend to produce inferior products at higher prices. And so that is when you squeeze off any kind of choice and competition. It's no surprise that the pupil cost of public education keeps going up and the quality keeps going down. [00:39:07] Speaker B: I speak all the time about the cost of higher education and how to create a new financial model. There is a direct relation between the fact that there has been no new private university in Texas in 60 years until now and the skyrocketing tuition that we've seen at universities, not just in Texas, but across the country. The inability to offer competition has really been what has driven in many ways, the cost of higher education beyond the reach of most families. [00:39:39] Speaker A: Scott on YouTube asks, how much federal regulation is there of private universities? What kind of regulations will you have to deal? [00:39:53] Speaker B: So states are the ones that authorize universities. So if you look at your college degree, if you have a college degree, it always mentions, usually in Latin, the state that you get the degree. You know, we are authorized by the state of Texas to be a four year degree granting institution, so we're subject to regulatory things within Texas. However, the way that the federal government inserts itself into higher education is through the Accrediting bodies. So beyond state authorization, you have to become you have to but most schools are voluntarily accredited. And so being accredited means you have to be accredited by a large regional body. So it's no longer a state. It's between the state and the federal government. And the Accreditors sort of determine whether or not your school is worthy of accreditation, whether you meet all the standards they set. The federal government will not distribute federal money, whether it's through grants, federal loans, research dollars to any institution that's not accredited. So the federal government, let's say, interacts with the Accreditors and sort of help set standards that are amenable to the federal government that are carried through by the Accreditors. That's how you start to see the kind of seepage of, let's say, federal regulation into a university that's embedded in a particular state. [00:41:27] Speaker A: Got it on Facebook. Zachary Taylor asks thoughts on where you'd like University of Austin to be five years down the line. Ten years, 20. How do you plan to try and scale? [00:41:41] Speaker B: Yeah, I think there are two answers to that question. In terms of the scale, we have intentions of scaling as an institution significantly. Now, I believe not everybody agrees with me on this, but I believe that for undergraduate education, it is essential that you conduct that education in person because you are shaping human beings. When they're 18 years old, they're coming to the kind of intensive formation that one needs to be shaped at that period of life. Precludes online education, I mean, there might be an occasional opportunity for something online, but the core of the education has to be in person. So that affects scalability. Right. You can only grow an undergraduate institution so far at the undergraduate level, but we do have ambitions of, let's say, branching out from that core undergraduate mission into graduate programs, continuing ed, dual credit high school programs, and that that we think are going to scale up pretty quickly. Into the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands and beyond. As an institution, we plan on scaling outwards. The other answer to the question is we want to, by our example, inspire other new universities to be founded. We want to create, or let's say, inspire just a whole new constellation of institutions that will introduce new models, new ideas, new ways of advancing higher education, and by being successful, by being the newest university in America and actually accomplishing what we set out to do. There are many other schools that we know will follow in our wake. I have conversations with people all the time on this. You know, different groups call me up and say, there's a group in Canada that wants to start a uATX version in Canada. There's another group in Colombia in the country, Columbia, that wants to start a university, actually a libertarian university. There are different models that people are conceiving of right now, and they're looking to us as the kind of, let's say, tip of the spear. And so I think our success will inspire a kind of a multiplication of new institutions. And so that's a different version of scaling, but one I think that's also very important. [00:44:22] Speaker A: Yes. There's our dear friend Marcia Enright with her Reliance College Project, and then, of course, our most recent honoree at the Atlas Society's gala, ricardo Salinas with his uni versidad libertad down in Mexico City. So, yeah, it's percolating it's happening. Well, you kind of got to this question with regards to graduate studies, but Tommy Long on Instagram is asking any advice for current college students who might be interested in a master's course at University of Austin? Is there such a program on the horizon? I guess I will add to that as somebody who transferred from Columbia to Harvard for my college degree. What about opportunities for transfer students? [00:45:17] Speaker B: So here's where the regulatory state intervenes. So we are not allowed this is a Texas regulation. We're not allowed to offer graduate programs until we've been running our undergraduate program for two years. So we fully intend in year three of Operation to begin offering master's level programs. And we have a kind of prototype program that we've run as a fellowship program in entrepreneurship and leadership. We're developing a master's program in grand strategy with some of our friends who inhabit that world. We're looking at Master's programs in everything from journalism to filmmaking. So we're going to have a slate of Master's programs launching hopefully in 2026. And it's the same thing with transfer students. We're not allowed to take any transfer students for the first two years of operation. I think this is a reasonable thing. I think the state just wants to make sure that a new institution has enough traction before you're starting to pull students out of other you know, I don't find that planning. I think, in year three is when we're going to be authorized to begin accepting transfer students. [00:46:36] Speaker A: Interesting. All right, Tommy, hope that is good enough for you or any college students in your life. Okay, this is a question. Georgie Alexopoulos has this to ask. Why build the university in Austin, especially with how left leaning it is. You might want to add your son's comment on moving to you know, I also wonder whether or not that might be know, I know there's all of this concern about, oh, the Californians are moving to Texas. Well, those Californians that are moving to Texas are voting more conservative than the Texans themselves. So you guys that's a good. [00:47:27] Speaker B: So, yeah. I will share the story that I shared with you before we were online when we were moving to Austin. I have a teenage son who is I'll characterize him as a very conservative young man and he's 14. And we were out here looking at houses and there was a big sign. Many of you have probably heard this phrase, keep Austin weird. And so there's a big sign somewhere, billboard. I can't remember what it was. And it had that keep Austin weird. And my son's like, dad, when we move to Austin, we're going to make Austin normal. And the truth is, actually, I think that's kind of what's happening in Austin. I mean, Austin has this kind of reputation for being very liberal, I think in kind of the older sense of the term, kind know, dope smoking, hippie music, creative kind of way. That was the culture in Austin, the sort of Willie Nelson's of the world. And I think that's still part of Austin. But I've lived east coast, west coast, north, south, other countries. Austin is far from politically monochromatic apart from the University of Texas, like most major universities, is its kind of own closed ecosystem. Outside of that, I actually find Austin to be remarkably sort of welcoming and interested in different ideas. It's a very innovative, entrepreneurial place and that's really why we decided to build the university. I mean, Austin Webb is austin is the city that's creating the future right now. All these maverick thinkers, all these builders and entrepreneurs who are tired of the kind of calcified environment of a Silicon Valley or tired of the way things are done in places like New York. They're moving to Austin. They are gathering together regularly. They're bouncing ideas off each other. And we're in the thick of these things. I mean, University of Austin is really, at its heart, a kind of entrepreneurial venture. We're one massive startup and I often say that our particular mission is to found a university that will forge the next generation of American founders. But what we're trying to do is graduate young people who are going to build and create and innovate and come up with the next big idea, the next great company who aren't motivated by getting a stamp from an elite university and going straight to Goldman Sachs or something like that. So that's our particular mission, and that's what's happening in Austin. I mean, Austin is a tremendously entrepreneurial place right now, and there's so many things that are happening here that are sort of playing together, ideas. One of my favorite examples, a friend that I've made since coming here, started a company called Icon, and the challenge he was trying to solve was the challenge of affordable housing. And so one day, he was watching his son. His son had a project to laser print something at school. And he's looking at this laser printer. It's like, what if we had laser print houses? What would that look like? So he created this company that laser prints houses. They look like laser printers, but they're like the size of cranes, really, and running on computer programs that you can actually program on your iPhone. They have these streams of concrete that they pour in patterns layer over layer over layer, the same way you would do use a laser printer. And they could build up these beautiful houses in 48 hours at about a third the cost of building a house in another way. And so that's the kind of stuff like that's what's happening in Austin now. And I just love that environment. [00:51:37] Speaker A: That's really cool. All right, we've got less than ten minutes, so I'm just going to take one more question. Sorry to all of you guys, dozens of you that I was not able to get to yasser Fiat on Instagram asks, why do mainstream universities funnel millions of dollars into stadiums and college sports teams, but don't do the same for actual education? [00:52:01] Speaker B: It's almost like a plant because that's the exact I would say the moral center of our institution is about making sure that universities do what they're meant to do. And that is focus on academics, focus on learning and discovery of knowledge. Which is why we won't have any sports teams and won't have a stadium and won't have sushi bars and all that. Why do schools do this? I think fundamentally, I think it's a market issue. It's that there are too many schools chasing too few qualified students, and so they try to distinguish themselves through amenities, through the student experience, through the climbing wall, or through the fancy dormitories, or through the successful sports team. I mean, if you go on a college tour today and I'm doing this now, I have a daughter who's a junior in high school, so I kind of go undercover and I go on college tours with her. Rarely does a school actually highlight its academic programs. They're going to highlight the beautiful student center overlooking the lake or the 25 different clubs you can join, or the success of their Big Twelve sports team or whatever it is. They almost never talk about what happens in the classroom. And so what is happening at schools is that the general cost of providing this comprehensive life experience is what's driving the cost of higher education. It's why there are so many more administrators. There are schools today, like Yale, that have more administrators than undergraduates. The number of professors has not changed significantly over the years. The number of administrators at some schools has grown seven, eight, ninefold. And it's because of this kind of service minded way of thinking about students as consumers of a product. Well, that cost has to be borne by someone. So institutions are guilty of providing the kind of Club Med opportunities for students. Students and families are guilty of making those choices, too, and following in those pathways, which then encourages a cycle. We are radically, radically reducing the footprint of administration. At the University of Austin, most schools spend anywhere from two thirds, three quarters, and up of their annual operating budget on administration. We're flipping that. We're saying we're going to spend two thirds, three quarters of our annual operating budget on what happens in the classroom. [00:54:47] Speaker A: All right, well, we're coming to an end. But I did want to get this question in, because I think that one of the most shocking and disturbing things that's happened on college campus over the past three years is all of the mandates forcing students to take vaccines they really didn't need and that probably didn't outweigh the risks. And, of course, the mask mandates and sending kids home and actually making them take classes on zoom. So, kind of a two part question whether you were president of St. John's during COVID and whether you could speak to any of the soft and hard policy advisories you receive, and then also any discussions about how the University of Austin might respond to future potential lockdowns and mandates. [00:55:47] Speaker B: I simply hope that that's never the case, but I won't count on that. Yeah, I was president at St. John's during COVID and it was such a challenging time because nobody you were making decisions that had impact on the lives of a huge community in real time and not knowing what the outcome might be. I mean, I remember early on, our students were awake for spring break when the full weight of what was happening became evident to the world, and we had a two week spring break. And so I remember the early discussions like, well, let's delay bringing students back a week or two weeks. And that extended to, we have to cancel the semester. It was extended to fighting to bring students back in the fall and having to make everything happen so they can come back. It was just such a hot mess. I mean, it wasn't just that the institutions had opinions, but every member of the institution had an opinion. The faculty who just refused to enter a classroom. Parents who had wanted demands were making demands on safety, people who were on the front line security, and people would be preparing foods and wanting to make sure that they weren't treated differently than the professors who had the option to say, I'm not coming in to teach and all that. It was a real hot mess. But the fundamental principle that we abided by, and I'm proud to say that we held to, was our mission is to teach. And our teaching mission depends upon having students in face to face contact with each other and professors. And so we pushed as hard as possible to get students back in the classroom as quickly as we did, and we were among the first schools to do that. But there was no crystal ball at that time and no way to really chart what was happening. So I will say it was one of the most confusing times to be a leader of any kind of institution in the country. But I think for me, a lode star in that moment, and this would inform my future thinking about this was that, of all things that must be paramount, freedom of conscience ultimately has to be paramount. That no institution has the right to intrude upon the interior conscience of another human being. And so that has to be honored. [00:58:18] Speaker A: Well, if that is not a reason to apply and to support University of Austin, then I don't know what is in the minute or so that we have left. Pano, any final thoughts or things that we haven't covered that you want to get across? [00:58:36] Speaker B: I would just say to all of you who are out there, thank you for being part of this conversation and hearing what we have to say. We are so excited to welcome our first class of 100 students, the Brave 100, we're calling them. These are students who just by virtue of being willing to jump into this institution and build a new university alongside of us, they are, by definition, going to be the next generation of builders and founders and innovators and leaders. And so if you know students who are built that way, students who have that kind of maverick character, that desire to jump into the thick of things and create things that will make the world better, send them our way, Uaustin.org. Send them my way. Send them to me directly. I'd love to talk to these students and would love anybody who has that kind of connection or impulse to make sure that you're getting the word out that we're here to welcome those students and build this new institution. [00:59:37] Speaker A: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much, Pano, for joining us during this very busy year. And Godspeed, if I can say that, on what you're doing. I'm just so thrilled and encouraged and inspired. And that's part of what we like to do here at the Atlas Society. We are all kind of wired to look at the negative, but there are a lot of really encouraging positive things happening in the world. And as I like to say, in order to be objective, you need to be perspective. So thank you. And thanks to all of you who have joined, especially those who keep coming back and asking great questions. And I know you are, at least to some extent, believers in our objectivist values. You don't believe in something for nothing. You don't believe in being a moocher. So if you are enjoying this content and getting something out of our program, now would be a great time to come forward with your first donation to the Atlas Society. Our board of trustees is matching all new donations before the end of the year, so even a 510 20, $50 donation would be wonderful, and I'd be very grateful. So I want to also encourage you guys to come back. I'm very excited. Next week, we have our returning guest, Johann Norberg, coming back on the Atlas Society, asks to talk about his latest book, The Capitalist Manifesto. We'll see you then.

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