SMU president defends plan to host Bush library

Jan. 17, 2007, 11:04PM

SMU president defends plan to host Bush library 

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Dallas Bureau

DALLAS – Responding to protests from some faculty members about the prospect of hosting President Bush’s library, Southern Methodist University’s president said Wednesday that political passions will give way to historical research.

“Over time, the political component of the library center will fade and the historic importance of the issues will ascend,” SMU President Gerald Turner told faculty members at a meeting opening the spring term.

He called the library “a significant opportunity for us to attract to SMU and Dallas one of the most important troves of information of one of the most critical decades in the history of our country.”


The faculty members’ chief complaint has been that a think tank that will come along with the library will be sharply conservative and undercut the school’s nonpartisan traditions. There is also strong political opposition to the president’s policies among those leading the faculty protest.

Last week, 68 current and former faculty members sent Turner a letter saying that Americans give the president “poor marks” on issues such as the war in Iraq. The letter took issue with the administration over “erosion of habeas corpus, denial of global warming, disrespect for international treaties, alienation of longtime U.S. allies, environmental predation, disregard for rights of gay persons, a preemptive war based on false premises and other forms of disrespect for the created order and global community.”

William McElvaney, a professor emeritus at SMU’s theology school and co-author of a November opinion piece in the campus newspaper titled “The George W. Bush Library: Asset or Albatross?”, said his opposition is ethical rather than partisan.

“Much of the record of the Bush administration contradicts what I think of as Methodist ethics,” he said. “This isn’t partisan on my part.”

McElvaney said he and other faculty members are particularly concerned about locating a Bush public policy institute on campus.

“I do mind the prospect of a Karl Rove or Donald Rumsfeld or a Paul Wolfowitz or others of that philosophy using SMU as a bully pulpit for the Bush legacy. That is not in the best interest of SMU,” he said.

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