I think that this is initiative is focusing on marginalization along more political/ideological lines than we (or at least I) are used to thinking about while coming from a STEM and international background (oh and I don’t use Twitter ). Niall Ferguson wrote an article discussing the project (he is a founding trustee), and notes that the conservative/republican views are very underrepresented among humanities professors:
Stanley Rothman, Robert Lichter and Neil Nevitte showed in a 2005 study, while 39% of the professoriate on average described themselves as left-wing in 1984, the proportion had risen to 72% by 1999, by which time being a conservative had become a measurable career handicap.
Mitchell Langbert’s analysis of tenure-track, Ph.D.-holding professors from 51 of the 66 top-ranked liberal arts colleges in 2017 found that those with known political affiliations were overwhelmingly Democratic. Nearly two-fifths of the colleges in Langbert’s sample were Republican-free. The mean Democratic-to-Republican ratio across the sample was 10.4:1, or 12.7:1 if the two military academies, West Point and Annapolis, were excluded. For history departments, the ratio was 17.4:1; for English 48.3:1. No ratio is calculable for anthropology, as the number of Republican professors was zero.
I’m used to discussing the limited academic career options from STEM PhDs, but it sounds like the academic prospects for an openly conservative anthropology graduate student would be really bleak! Likewise, I’ve never really felt worried the others would be offended by my views when discussing STEM research (except perhaps in the case of academic reforms that threatened the status quo at the top of the academic ladder!). But Ferguson points out that offending their peers is a real concern for college students (and presumably for professors given how readily students will report them).
In Heterodox Academy’s 2020 Campus Expression Survey, 62% of sampled college students agreed that the climate on their campus prevented them from saying things they believed, up from 55% in 2019, while 41% were reluctant to discuss politics in a classroom, up from 32% in 2019. Some 60% of students said they were reluctant to speak up in class because they were concerned other students would criticize their views as being offensive.
Such anxieties are far from groundless. According to a nationwide survey of a thousand undergraduates by the Challey Institute for Global Innovation, 85% of self-described liberal students would report a professor to the university if the professor said something that they found offensive, while 76% would report another student.
Anyway, I think I was wrong to initially describe this as an attempt to reinvent academia. After reading deeper it’s clear that they are trying to recreate a college environment from a few decades ago (which probably has less conceptual risk than going down the reinvention route). As for concerns about its political leaning, I came across this opinion piece that points out that UATX does at least demonstrate a rare case of innovation in the otherwise stagnate US higher education sector that could be worth experimenting with on both sides of the political spectrum.