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‘Liberty Institute’ proponent says university interfered with his plans


Original proponent says bureaucrats have taken over his proposal. But university did select an Evangelical, social conservative as a director

A plan for a new policy center dedicated to intellectual diversity at the University of Texas at Austin was recently overtaken by university administrators and their appointed staff, according to a professor behind the initiative.

The plan for the center, which would be called the Liberty Institute, came from a small faction of faculty in the business school who recognized the need for greater intellectual diversity and a counter to the increasing left-wing dominance of UT-Austin curriculum.

The faculty created a proposal for a degree program that would “focus entirely on inquiry and understanding of the world,” recognizing that “much of the university has turned its back on inquiry in favor of advocacy.”

Led by professors Richard Lowery and Carlos Carvalho, this plan sought to reinvigorate the campus culture with an opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive without “being required to, in effect, undergo political training.” Professor Lowery detailed his concerns recently in an essay for the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

After initial agreement by the UT president and the chairman of the Board of Regents, the plan came to a halt when Carvalho proposed the initial committee of faculty to work on the project, Professor Lowery alleged. In the time that Carvalho and Lowery (pictured) were developing their ideas for new classes and faculty, the president of UT appointed Richard Flores to assist with the process. Lowery alleges that Flores is a critical race theorist.

Flores’ directive for the program included a plan to find staff who had already been approved for hire by existing departments, as well as providing state funds to those academic units. Carvalho rejected this plan and was subsequently banned from any further involvement with the institute, according to Lowery.

However, the university did pick a conservative to run the institute.

Officials appointed Justin Dyer, founder of the Kinder Institute at the University of Missouri, to be the new director. Dyer is a conservative whose writings include a book comparing Roe v. Wade to the Dred Scott decision and one on C.S. Lewis and natural law.

The program is now known as the Civitas Institute, which Dyer explained is “a condensed Latin rendering of Mirabeau Lamar’s famous phrase that a ‘cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy.’”

The College Fix reached out to Professor Lowery regarding the recent developments in the Liberty Institute, asking his advice to conservative faculty at other schools who are also attempting to expand ideological diversity.

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Lowery told The Fix that “at this point it is hard to give any advice in good faith other than ‘give up.’ You will be betrayed by donors, alumni, and politicians. Your colleagues will whisper about how someone needs to do something, but they will never support you publicly. Most of the free speech organizations are just grifts.”

He went on to explain that “university administrators lie for a living. … The only hope I see is to publicly shame the people who actually call the shots (regents, trustees, and politicians), but they seem invisible on these issues.”

The Fix asked Lowery whether he plans to continue to work with the Liberty Institute or if the hope for its success has disappeared.

He responded that he is “effectively banned from involvement in the ‘Liberty Institute’, which is now called the ‘Civitas Institute,’ but even if I were not I would have nothing to do with that,” he said.

The College Fix also reached out to Dyer, director of the Civitas Institute, to ask what his vision is for the new program.

He explained that “it will be a community of scholars committed to exploring the ideas and institutions that sustain a free society and enable individuals to flourish. As an institution, the Civitas Institute will value independent thought, civil discourse, free speech, reasoned deliberation, and intellectual curiosity.”

Dyer went on to explain that the programs will explore “individual rights and civic virtue, constitutionalism and the rule of law, and free enterprise and markets.”

He stated:

These are important topics about which there is serious disagreement in our society, not just between the left and right ends of the political spectrum but internally among the different factions of longstanding political coalitions that are today undergoing a period of critical reflection and realignment.

He also commented on his experience at the Kinder Institute, which he said “created an intellectually vibrant community that aspired to be what a university should be: a place where smart… curious people come together and learn from each other in the common pursuit of wisdom and truth.”

The Fix reached out to the UT-Austin president’s office to ask about the factors contributing to the decision to appoint Richard Flores to develop the institute, why they removed Carlos Carvalho from involvement and how the institute will contribute to intellectual diversity at UT-Austin. The office did not respond to the initial email or an additional follow-up.

The Fix also reached out to Flores for comment on his vision for the institute and how it will contribute to intellectual diversity, as well as the considerations behind exclusively hiring people from existing departments.

Flores did not respond to the initial email or a follow-up.

MORE: University agrees to allow pro-capitalism club back on campus

Editor’s note: The article and headline have updated with more information on Justin Dyer and Lowery’s allegations.

IMAGE: Salem Center

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About the Author
Aly Buckner -- University of Virginia