Liberty Institute creators say UT leadership is “deprecated” on state-funded plans for right-wing college programs

The University of Texas (UT) statistics professor who led the effort to create the Liberty Institute claims that university leadership is sabotaging the federally funded project.

Carlos Carvalho, a statistics professor at UT Austin, drafted the original proposal in his office with other faculty members and supporters at the Salem Center for Policy Events, a center at McCombs Business School that focuses on free market politics.

Legislators approved the proposal, providing the University Of Texas At Austin Liberty Institute with $6 million in the final 2021 state budget. Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick played a key role in guiding the project through the Legislature, faculty members say, and has repeatedly and publicly expressed support for the endeavor.

In a remark that later sparked controversy at successive faculty council meetings, Patrick touted the institute as an antidote to the “poison” of critical race theory in Texas public education.

“I will not stand by and allow mad Marxist UT professors to poison the minds of young students with Critical Race Theory. We banned it in publicly funded K-12 and we will ban it in publicly funded colleges. That’s why we founded the Liberty Institute at UT,” Patrick wrote.

Carvalho says he and other members envisioned a home for politically heterodox academics, similar to Stanford’s Hoover Institution, but with its own permanent faculty, courses and programs. The draft proposal for the institute, which provides for programs dedicated to classical education and the study of “the moral, ethical, philosophical and historical foundations of a free society,” is presented below.

Although he conceived the idea with other faculties, Carvalho was gradually removed from the committees that ran the institute.

Additionally, UT President Jay Hartzell has informed faculty that the institute will not hire independent faculty — removing a provision that Carvalho and other founders said was absolutely necessary to make the institute a home for heterodox thinkers.

In faculty council meetings, Hartzell said that other institutes and centers around campus were not authorized to independently hire staff.

“This institute or center, or whatever it is called, will be in line with how we run centers and institutes at the University of Texas at Austin. Centers and institutes, for example, do not appoint tenured faculty members,” Hartzell said at a faculty council meeting in March.

According to Carvalho, however, the idea is inevitably hampered by the lack of independent settings.

“After the legislature approved and funded the creation of the institute, when it came to implementation, the president of the university decided not to implement what was written in that paper,” claims Carvalho.

Without an independent attitude, the task of selecting faculty does not fall to the group of professors who originally proposed the idea, but instead to the existing university system, which Carvalho describes as “antagonistic” to the ideas the institute was meant to explore.

“There is one thing, one key provision, that makes or breaks this institution. The determination is the independence of attitude. So, specifically, hiring the university’s so-called tenured-track faculty… And the people invested in creating that institution would essentially be the ones who would choose who to hire,” Carvalho said.

“And that’s important because every department on campus has their own agenda — things they want to do, things they want to hire — and they’ve shown over the years that they don’t want to hire in that direction.” The intellectual imbalance you have on campus is the result of your actions over the years.”

When asked to provide an example of the pervasive “antagonism” to free market ideals on UT’s campus, Carvalho said the university hosts several courses that require exposure to Karl Marx, but no course in economic history, which would require a confrontation with Adam Smith.

Although the idea originated in Carvalho’s office, other faculty involved with the institute credit Patrick with getting the idea through the state legislature. The idea of ​​a Hoover-style center in Texas fitted seamlessly with Patrick’s critique of UT for leftist homogeneity.

However, the same motive seems to have propelled Patrick to turn to a new political goal: the abolition of tenure at public universities in Texas.

In the press conference Presenting this policy plan, Patrick cited the comments of Richard Lowery, a UT professor who made headlines for upsetting the university’s resolution in support of the teaching of critical race theory at a February faculty council meeting.

Lowery, who worked closely with Carvalho to draft the initial institute proposal, said the institute is currently at a standstill.

“It’s a total failure. They’ve forgone everything that would be necessary to make it independent and functional and they’re just enforcing a plan where existing departments can use the money and they’re bringing in someone who I’m pretty sure is he just agreed to go along with the plan,” Lowery said, referring to a University of Missouri professor named Justin Dyer, whom UT executives have viewed as a prime candidate to head the institute.

“They will make it look like something is going to happen, but nothing like what we envisioned or what the state thought they were getting when the university agreed will ever happen. ”

Although Lowery and Patrick alike lament the political state of the university, Lowery says Patrick did not contact the original faculty or make any effort to get the stalled project going again.

“As far as I know, whoever the Lieutenant Governor spoke to told him everything is going according to plan. And I don’t know who he spoke to to get that impression, but that’s what I heard,” Lowery said.

“He never reached out to me or Carlos or any of the people who originally pushed this.”

Patrick’s office did not respond to comment.

Lowery suggested that Dyer’s existing relationships with the UT leadership influenced his attitude. Carvalho said only that the administration’s search for an institute director seems rushed given the efforts he and the original faculty have made to reach out to academics at Stanford University, the University of Chicago and other elite institutions.

“I think UT is a place that has the ability to target top talent. And we’ve had a lot of talks with a lot of people in top positions,” said Carvalho.

“It wasn’t widely advertised … I don’t think the search was done in a way that — I don’t quite understand why it was done that way. I think it was rushed. The people who were in the early stages of the institute were not involved.”

Lowery agreed with Carvalho that the lack of independent hiring will cause faculty to conform with the university’s dominant policy thinking and undermine the institute’s core purpose.

“There’s just no way you can bring in someone who actually has views that really bring new ideas to campus. Because existing departments are unwilling to hire someone with views that are far enough from the mainstream to differentiate them,” Lowery said.

“Without the ability for an independent group to make independent hiring decisions, there’s no way to hire someone remotely interesting.”

Hartzell’s deputy for academic priorities is Richard Flores, professor in the Department of Mexican American and Latin American Studies. In this role, Flores, a critical theorist, has an important place at the forefront of the project.

Lowery called Flores hostile to the institute’s core idea. Flores did not respond to comment.

Departments like Flores’ have the ability to hire independently, Carvalho says, to bring underrepresented faculty to the university. The same principle is not applied at the Liberty Institute, he adds.

“The reason we have a department for African Diaspora Studies or Mexican-American Studies, many departments that have been created, [is] because it was necessary to give a home to these ideas, ideas that came from sociology, from history, from economics. So it was agreed that a new home was needed for these ideas and that is why these departments were created. And many of these departments thrived; You have students and programs and so on. So we’re actually trying to emulate something like that,” Carvalho said.

“For me, this provision is key to the Institute’s success, and this provision was where there was a major disagreement between the administration and us, who proposed the Institute, as to its implementation.”

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