Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who was recently blasted in social media for blaming the covid surge on unvaccinated black people, was featured in a story published by the Texas Tribune, this time for being part of a group of donors pushing for a conservative center in UT-Austin.
The center, which would be called the Liberty Institute and erected in opposition to what its supporters label as too much progressive teaching in universities, is intended to teach students about individual liberties, the role of private enterprises, and free markets.
Apparently, Liberty Institute has been in talks for several months -and years even- with Dan Patrick working alongside leaders at UT and private donors to build their intended think tank on campus.
According to the Texas Tribune, legislators already approved initial funding for the Liberty Institute, slipping $6 million into the 2022-23 state budget without giving details of the project’s aim, with university officials also committing $6 million.
However, information has been quite limited and often obscure, as none of the people involved in the project have shared their intentions when questioned by student groups and faculty.
UT-Austin President Jay Hartzell has also failed to provide information on the center, instead telling students “it’s not what you think it is” and then comparing it to public policy think tanks of the sort.
As reported by the Texas Tribune, Steven Ding, president of the student-led UT Senate of College Councils, said he’s frustrated by the lack of transparency and involvement from the university community.
The Tribune also got a hold of two proposals from various stages of the planning process from Patrick’s office. One describes the institute as one that will “educate thousands of students … on the moral, ethical, philosophical and historical foundations of a free society” asking the state to dedicate money to the project.
A second document explains that the Liberty Center is necessary at UT-Austin given that a “growing proportion of our population lacks a basic understanding of the role liberty and private enterprise play in their well-being,” that proposal reads.
Besides both proposals describing their intention to influence Texan education beyond UT campus, a lot of questions remain unanswered.
One proposal, as mentioned by the Texas Tribune, set a goal to be fully operational by fall 2026, serving 2,500 students. It envisioned an initial budget at $100 million with $25 million coming from private donors and around $75 million from the UT System Board of Regents and the state.