Campus Reform | University of Texas set to launch conservative think tank

University of Texas set to launch conservative think tank

The University of Texas has plans for a conservative think tank and a goal of bringing intellectual diversity to campus.

The University of Texas has worked with private donors and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick to establish a new think tank to promote conservative ideas on campus. 

The Liberty Institute was granted $6 million in funding from the state legislature from the 2022-23 state budget along with another $6 million committed by university officials. Several prominent alumni ranging from state senators to billionaires worked with university President Jay Hartzell, to create the think tank, with the goal of bringing more intellectual diversity to UT Austin’s campus. 

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Although the plans for the new think tank are not finalized, the proposals are certainly ambitious. 

According to proposals obtained by the Texas Tribune, the think tank would educate thousands of UT students on free market philosophy and individual liberties. It would also work with the university’s OnRamps program, which extends educational opportunities to more than 20,000 high school students across the state. 

Oil executive Bud Brigham, a major donor and driving force behind the project, has been a major proponent of Ayn Rand’s philosophy and the Liberty Institute would introduce it to an overwhelmingly liberal campus. 

Alex Vargas, Chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas UT Austin Chapter, told Campus Reform, “Members of my organization and I have been excited about this news since it broke.”

The center would offer new degree programs in areas such as politics, philosophy, and economics taught by new faculty recruited to teach at the university.

Documents obtained by the Texas Tribune suggest that the leaders of the new project want to operate differently than other academic departments at the university. The documents suggest that the institute’s backers want the power to hire their own faculty and the power to manage their own budget. The group has conservative economists from the Hoover Institution and Council of Economic Advisors on the wishlist. 

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These developments come at a time where America’s educational institutions find themselves at the center of the ongoing culture wars. Conservatives have long seen higher education as a bastion of progressive ideology and indoctrination. However, this intensified after the death of George Floyd last summer, many educational institutions changed the ways they taught about the painful history of race relations in America.

As Critical Race Theory and intersectionality have become a major point of contention across the country, universities find themselves again embroiled in the debate of how to tell the story of America. 

In response to the proposal, the UT Senate of College Councils and other groups released a list of demands calling for the funds to be directed elsewhere . The petition garnered over 300 signatures. 

Campus Reform reached out to the UT Senate of College Councils and Hartzell’s office for comment, but did not receive a response for publication.