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The classes, which were announced by the new unaccredited university when it launched in November 2021, will be attended by 80 students who are “cultivating the habits of civil discourse”. The university said it would seek to investigate a different question each week, starting with “Who am I as an individual?” as he encourages seminar participants to “discuss and debate the most thorny issues of our time”.

This week, the university announced new speakers at the inaugural event, including Marvel co-chairman Robert Steffens; Jack Abraham, CEO of venture capital firm Atomic; Catherine Boyle, general partner of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz; military strategist Edward Luttwak; and Michael Solana Founders Fund.

The non-credit seminar will consist of eight courses, including:

  • “Free vs. Unfree Societies in the Twentieth Century” with Niall Ferguson
  • “Freedom of expression, religion and women’s rights” with Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  • “Climate Change Approaches” with Dorian Abbot
  • “The Psychology of Social Status” with Rob Henderson
  • “Varieties of Feminism” with Kathleen Stock
  • “Ideology” with Jacob Howland
  • “Capitalism: catastrophe or triumph? with Deirdre McCloskey
  • “Black Male Writing from Richard Wright to Ta-Nehisi Coates” with Thomas Chatterton Williams

“Forbidden Classes” earned its nickname from its founders, who said they created the university out of concerns about restricted free speech on college campuses nationwide. Founders include new president Pano Kanelos, who has described the current education system as “fractured”, former New York Times editor Bari Weiss, academic Steven Pinker and former president of Harvard University Lawrence H.Summers. Weiss will also be a workshop leader during the seminar.

“We call our summer program the Forbidden Classes because the current turmoil — political, social and cultural — prohibits us from meeting honestly and authentically,” reads the university’s Forbidden Classes website. “Those who will lead, innovate, create, must learn to rise above the static noise of social media, commerce, ideology, to see the world with greater clarity. More importantly, we must relearn to learn from each other.”

Each student will take one class per week and participate in multiple workshops led by authors, educators, physicists, and U of A founders, including Weiss. The university, which has no physical campus, is unaccredited and no class will count for college credit. According to the organization, students in attendance include current Ivy League students, startup founders, published authors, and academics as well as college dropouts, first-generation college students, and those of “all political persuasions.” Applications are currently closed.

The university is awaiting official nonprofit status and has Cicero Research, led by Austin-based tech investor and Palantir founder Joe Lonsdale, as a temporary sponsor. While it plans to hold “banned classes” every year and start master’s programs in entrepreneurship and leadership this fall, undergraduate programs aren’t expected to begin until 2024.

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