Ed. Note: The Integral Meusio was floated in the summer of 2018 as an opportunity for Integralists to claim a “meta-religion” of their own, using Lingua-U as a common metalanguage. Although it did not immediately receive sufficient community support for liftoff, there remains of value the writings which introduced the concept. Someday there may be a good reason to take them off the back-burner of our consciousness and bask in their heat. Often things such as this take time.
In the links, you’ll see two articles on the recent proposal by some conservatives for “an Ivory Tower of our own”, i.e., a right-wing university to serve as an alternative to liberal-dominated educational institutions. One is the proposal itself, in National Affairs; the other is a critical appraisal, in NYMag, suggesting that the conservative proposal amounts to its own mirror of the problematic aspects of political orthodoxy.
The essence of the conservative vision, however, is not for a sanctuary, but “an incubator”. Here’s what they want — a “self-sustaining university”:
The aim is to create an incubator — not a sanctuary. Talented graduate students and junior faculty who might be marginalized elsewhere would have an opportunity to find accomplished senior colleagues eager and able to mentor them — allowing them to develop the kind of body of work that would give them a meaningful shot at success anywhere in academe. The goal is to spawn scholars and public thinkers equipped to thrive in other academic institutions and to contribute to the public discourse.
Since the institution is intended to be primarily a cultural enterprise, it will be oriented by an emphasis on social sciences, humanities, and professional schools. One crucial upside to this approach is that it avoids the extraordinary costs associated with operating university hospitals, health-care complexes, and expansive laboratories. Along with a commitment to a relatively lean operational model, this makes the operation markedly cheaper than it might otherwise be.
The project requires attracting a critical mass of elite faculty while taking care to ensure that programs and departments offer copious room for young talent, creating a culture where emerging scholars are mentored and cultivated even as they tackle questions typically verboten. It will provide a platform where heterodox graduate students can get trained and get the opportunity to build enough of a track record that they have a fighting chance to get established as a credible voice and a funding-worthy scholar. And it will begin to provide the infrastructure of conferences, journals, and awards that are often denied to those pursuing certain kinds of questions, thus giving them a chance to grow in their fields.
The primary aim is to incubate scholarly talent and scholarship with an eye toward influencing the larger culture; that mission must shape decisions around things like campus size, enrollment, and staffing. A traditional campus provides valuable infrastructure for this work — including conferences, awards, new scholarly publications and outlets, postdoctoral positions, and more. In light of the mission, an undergraduate college of 4,200 is appropriate. The institution would also enroll a graduate-school population of 2,400 in the social sciences, humanities, and professional schools. For comparison’s sake, Claremont Graduate University, which focuses primarily on social sciences and business, enrolls about 2,000.
With an eye to cultivating an intimate, mentor-driven culture, faculty size should reflect that found at today’s elite universities. Harvard, Vanderbilt, Cornell, and Georgetown, for instance, have student-faculty ratios that range from 6:1 to 11:1. For this venture, given 4,200 undergraduates, maintaining a similar ratio implies a full-time faculty of about 500.
Now I don’t want to address the topic of this right-leaning Ivy Tower.
I’m bringing it up because it parallels a private conversation happening concerning the Integral Meusio. As we ready a Meusio V 2.0 (i.e., a more group-sourced vision for the university rather than a solo entrepreneur’s effort), we are looking at the possibility of establishing the Integral Meusio as a sort of incubator for teachers, gurus, and ministers who are bringing Integral insights into the world.
It’s still too early to elaborate on this point (talks are slowly emerging), but I’m optimistic that eventually the Meusio will settle into an institution that is one part church, one part university, and one part people-training business. If we are successful in coming into a winning formula, we will accomplish some of the things that Frederick M. Hess & Brendan Bell are shooting for. We will have a place where “Integral” perspectives marginalized in other places are welcome. We will have faculty/gurus/teachers who are in dialogue with other leading lights and creating the conditions for broad-based cultural conversations. And we will have a platform for attracting students into an “intimate, mentor-driven culture” where they can pursue their unique gifts in individual and group projects.
Now some integralists have tried to found a think tank. We can be grateful for their endeavors even when we wish that this concept had come to fruition in a different way. No think tank has really established a broad-based platform of support among integralists, so far as I can tell. Maybe what I’m getting at can be encapsulated in the notion of Meusio evolving into a think tank. Maybe. But it would depend on what is meant by think tank. A think tank that was multi-faceted and capable of “thinking outside the quadrant” might be pretty cool, depending on who was doing the thinking.
If the conservative Ivory Tower emerges according to the proposed plan, it will be a multi-billion dollar endeavor, with $1.4 billion going just for real estate and construction costs. Think about that and try not to get depressed that their endeavor might just succeed because they have a chance of getting support from Sheldon Adelson and other mega-billionaires that would never accrue to an Integral endeavor.
Nevertheless, I think we can be encouraged by the fact that technology has advanced to the point where a few hundred thousand dollars and a lot of elbow grease can create a virtual online community that is capable of serving as a basecamp for incubating many different sorts of Integral endeavors in business, healthcare, religion, psychology, and so forth. Maybe less money.
If Ken Wilber’s Integral University had come into reality, I’m sure that it could have served this function. Maybe if JFK University still offered a Master’s in Integral Studies things would be different. But the fact that one or two efforts didn’t come off is no reason to abandon the concept. Maybe Meusio will be some sort of Integrally-informed University, but it needn’t be restricted by what’s been tried in the past.
My gut sense of things is that under the right conditions that Meusio could, in fact, succeed where some other endeavors might not have, though they were backed by luminaries and significant investments. What I would look for as these conditions are (a) a clear vision of an Integral think tank / university / training company / spirituality-oriented organization; (b) a core team of smart and high-level individuals willing to work hard; and (c) the patience and flexibility to sustain several years of low-paying or free labor to build something really special and sustain commitment despite inevitable setbacks and frustrations. Optional: (d) angel financing or donations sufficient to ensure that all the hard work isn’t lost because the cheap-but-affordable route wasn’t the best route. I’m not sure these conditions are as of yet ripe, but if they are, we’ll be looking at a very different Integral Meusio on the way.
To Be Continued