We Have an Issue: Why Austin?

Scratching our heads over the University of Austin, and celebrating the spirit of creativity and curiousity already alive in our city


Cover photo(s) by Jana Birchum / Design by Zeke Barbaro

Huh? That was the first reaction many of us had when news broke on Monday that a group of academics and media figures were starting a new school, the so-called University of Austin, to combat what they perceive to be a nasty rash of "illiberalism and censoriousness" bothering college campuses these days. The second, third, 3,000th reactions were far livelier: Nothing quite brings out the Twitterverse's prankish and puckish spirit than the opportunity to dunk on people with power, influence, and privilege who've convinced themselves they're being oppressed.

But seriously: Why Austin? Interestingly, it was the same question we asked when Kim Jong-un bizarrely put Austin on a proposed nuke target list back in 2013. Also: Can y'all just leave us out of this?

It's unclear why this group – which includes Bari Weiss, Andrew Sullivan, and David Mamet – settled on Austin to host their experiment in reinventing higher learning. We already have here plenty of universities, colleges, technical schools, and such with physical campuses, accreditation, and degree programs (none of which the University of Austin can boast). These schools are already in Austin and of Austin – meaning, vital, established community partners and not just parachuting in because they're ... hoping to run into Elon Musk and Joe Rogan at Whole Foods??

No, for real. On the school website's FAQ, they pose the same question as the rest of us: "Why Austin?"

The glib reply?

"If it's good enough for Elon Musk and Joe Rogan, it's good enough for us."

Social justice advocate Chris Harris suggested on Twitter that Austin's legendary "incredibly chill tolerance" is what's made us so attractive. "They saw how quietly we laughed at Alex Jones & now all the most ridiculous grifters congregate here. A safe space for folks that claim to hate safe spaces."

My instinct is to ignore them. My suspicion is this premature announcement was a PR stunt, and all we're doing is megaphoning their grievances. My most cynical self thinks this city has well and truly jumped the shark.

And then along comes something like this week's cover story – Wayne Alan Brenner's profile of installation artist and writer Dana Bauerle-McKnight and her "fantasy pocket-world" Tiny Minotaur – and I'm reminded anew how weird and wonderful and bursting with ingenuity and good vibes our town can be. I loved this story. Check it out here.


Online This Week


Wes(t) Anderson Lane (Photo by Heather Kennedy)

Wes Anderson Lane: For the duration of November, the city has renamed West Anderson Lane in honor of the seven-time Oscar-nominated UT alum and director of such films as The French Dispatch, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and The Royal Tenenbaums.

Batting 1,000: Wayne Alan Brenner previews Jennifer Sherburn's The All-Overs, a new dance spectacle staged in an Austin batting cage.

Day Trips & Beyond: Captain Day Trips has some ideas for how to spend your November, including Saturdays in Granbury at Revolver Brewery and a trip to a Taos museum celebrating the legendary frontiersman Kit Carson.


Skylark Lounge (Photo by Kevin Curtin)

Skylark Lounge Reopens: Music Editor Kevin Curtin was at the beloved Eastside music joint last weekend when it returned after 599 days of pandemic-forced closure.

Last Week in Live Music: Check out photographer David Brendan Hall's favorite shots from recent performances, including Letting Up Despite Great Faults, A Giant Dog, Go Fever, Bright Light Social Hour, and Tame Impala.

The Plot Against the Parish? Owners of the Parish have filed for a temporary restraining order and a temporary injunction against their landlord, who locked the business out of its space last month.

Felled in Portland: Austin FC's season ended with a thud as the Verde lost to Portland Timbers, the tyro club's ninth straight road loss.

Pleased to Meat You: Brenner rounds up tasty noms for the carnivores among us.


We Have an Issue: Why Austin?

The Austin Chronicle Show on KOOP 91.7FM

This week, host Kimberley Jones chats with Morgan O'Hanlon about the ongoing Delta-8 battle in Texas and Wayne Alan Brenner about Tiny Minotaur, fantasy roleplaying games, and creativity in Austin.


Tune in Fridays, 6pm, to KOOP Community Radio. Past episodes at austinchronicle.com/av.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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