SMU Philosophy Prof Weighs in on Institute

January 31, 2007

This is the most extended and informed discussion of the question of the Bush Institute to date.

Universities, think tanks, and the advancement of knowledge
Steve Sverdlik
SMU Daily Campus
January 31, 2007

Everyone on campus is now aware that many faculty members, students and alumni are concerned about certain features of the proposed Bush Presidential Library complex at SMU. Much of the discussion by the faculty has come to focus on the Bush Institute, as distinct from the library and its associated museum. The concerns are valid: a think tank like the Bush Institute will trade on our reputation, but not abide by our standards. We have reason to worry, therefore, that it will tarnish our reputation.

The current plan is to have the Bush Institute form an association with SMU. At one time, SMU proposed to establish a Bush School of Public Affairs that would be part of our university and under the authority of our chief academic officer, the provost. But the current plan envisions an institute, not a school. The Bush Institute may describe itself as being “of” SMU, or “at” SMU, or something else. But whatever the terminology, the Institute will in truth be a separate entity, having its own board of trustees, endowment, director and staff. Most importantly, it will have its own set of guidelines for its activities. While there may be a representative of SMU on its board, its operations will not in any way be overseen or controlled by our university or our provost.

Continued here.

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The Debate Heats Up

January 31, 2007

The last day of January was a busy one, with new participants entering the debates over the Library and Institute, and old ones weighing with new information.  SMU’s Student Senate Endorsed both the Library and Institute by the vote of 27 to 5.  John Jose, the first-year Senator who wrote the resolution, tells me that “I’m fairly confident that the senators understand the difference between the library and the institute.”  The campus chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas — an organization that came to prominence several years ago when it hosted an “affirmative action bake sale” on several campuses featuring more expensive prices for white males — announced the start of a petition drive in support of the Library and Institute.  Debate between faculty members continued in the pages of the student newspaper.

The United Methodists organizing within the church against the Library and Institute announced the results of their petition drive thus far, which include the support of fourteen bishops and six hundred pastors.  Among the signatories number members of some of the most venerable and prominent SMU families, including that of legendary SMU President Willis Tate and the Perkins-Prothro family, after whom our Theology school is named, and who just gave a gift of six million dollars to SMU.  I have no knowledge or information about the politics of the United Methodist Church, but these are obviously heavy-hitters.  This is all getting much more intense and more interesting, and coming to involve more and more parts of SMU’s extended community.


Prominent Historian Weighs in on Library, Institute Debate

January 31, 2007

This from Slate — the best analysis of the debate on campus and some of its broader implications that I’ve seen.

George Bush Goes to College
David Greenberg
Slate
January 31, 2007

Universities champion unbiased inquiry. Presidential libraries often include museums that exalt their honorees with selective versions of history. The two have never meshed well. Duke University, where Richard Nixon attended law school (and broke into the dean’s office to see his grades), spurned efforts to build his library there. Ronald Reagan’s people wanted to locate his repository-cum-shrine at Stanford University but got a chilly response. Plans to house the Kennedy Library at Harvard ran aground in the mid-1970s.

Now, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, the alma mater to Laura Welch Bush, is in an uproar over its bid to become the permanent home of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Three times in three weeks the faculty has met to debate the subject. According to the campus paper, professors complained loudly, some not wishing to yoke the university’s reputation to a president they considered shameful, others rejecting the plans to host a Bush Foundation-run institute that would fund pro-Bush research. But the university president, R. Gerald Turner, has remained unbowed. Whatever individual professors may think of Bush, he and his supporters say, any archives of presidential documents would be a boon for SMU.

So, who’s right?

Continued here.


SMU Student Government Endorses Library

January 31, 2007

Yesterday afternoon SMU’s student senate voted to endorse the Library, Museum, and Institute. (it is not clear to me from the article, or from the account of a colleague who attended the senate meeting, whether the senate is aware of the distinctions between the Library-Museum and the Institute.)

The editorial board of the Daily Campus has expressed no view on the library itself, but has raised a set of concerns about the Institute. More student engagement with the issues may be forthcoming.

Student Senate Endorses Quest for Bush Library
A. Neely Eisenstein
SMU Daily Campus
January 31, 2007

Student Senate voted to support the Bush Library in its entirety Tuesday evening. It is the first time a student organization on campus has publicly taken a side on the Bush Library debate.

The past few weeks have sparked a great deal of debate nationwide regarding the possibility of SMU hosting the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Faculty members have voiced concerns about the so-called “think tank” portion of the library; Methodists across the country have come together in a single petition against the institute; countless numbers of opinion pieces have been written and published in national media organizations; and now, an SMU student organization has chosen a side.

The resolution supporting the Bush Library and Institute passed after a few short comments. The final vote resulted in 27 yeas and five nays.

Continued here.


A View from Across the Pond

January 31, 2007

Well, our former imperial overlords have started to take notice of the debate over the Bush Library and Institute. This is from a prominent London newspaper. A bit behind the curve — there’s no mention of the push for a faculty referendum on the Institute — but the article does hit some of the issues about the proposed Institute’s governance and relation to the rest of SMU. And it’s clear how strange our Presidential Library system looks to at least some outsiders — what democracy gives former heads of state so much control over the documents of state created during their administrations?

University Goes to War on Bush Legacy
Suzanne Goldenberg
The Guardian
January 31, 2007

In a neighbourhood of Dallas where stone mansions rise out of lush green lawns, there is a corridor of low-slung flats whose demolition, now begun, could soon give way to much greater grandeur. Here, on the eastern edges of Southern Methodist University, may one day stand the George W Bush presidential library, museum and thinktank, a multimillion dollar complex that could become a beacon of conservative thought.

Except that to the considerable embarrassment of the university and the White House, many people, on campus and off, are demanding that Mr Bush take his legacy some place else.

Continued here.


Institutional Identity and the Problem of the Presidential Library

January 30, 2007

From a blog associated with Sojourner, a thoughtful forum for progressive Christians.  Jumfer reflects on the package, but draws no distinction between the library and institute.

Institutional Identity and the Problem of the Presidential Library
Tim Kumfer
Always New Depths
January 30, 2007

By now you’ve probably heard of the debate ensuing down there in Dallas. Southern Methodist University is the proposed site for the George W. Bush Presidential Library. The site would host a museum, the administration’s archives, and a public policy institute. The initial announcement in the fall garnered protest from faculty members, students, alumni, and United Methodist clergy and church members. The University is moving forward with its negotiations with the President’s site selection committee, and it is expected to formally accept soon. The question raised here is, should SMU accept, and why?

Continued here.


Times and Chronicle are Forgainst the Bush Library

January 30, 2007

This from the blog of the Dallas Observer, our independent weekly.  Funny if a bit snarky — that’s pretty much their style — and does a nice job with questions of secrecy and continued Bush control over access to documents. 

Times and Chronicle are Forgainst the Bush Library
Robert Wilonsky
Unfair Park–The Dallas Observer Blog
January 29, 2007

Two editorials over the weekend – one in The New York Times, another in the Houston Chronicle – suggest, in short, that S.M.U. oughta be happy with that George W. Bush Library-Think Tank-Pet Store-Juice Bar proposed for the Hilltop, but only if Dubya stops being so, like, secretive. Yup – good luck with all that.

Continued here.