Focusing the discussion on the Bush Institute, NOT the Library
Janis Bergman, David A. Freidel, and Valerie A. Karras
SMU Daily Campus
On Dec. 21, SMU President R. Gerald Turner informed the university community that the George W. Bush Presidential Library Search Committee had chosen to enter into exclusive negotiations with SMU. On Jan. 5, President Turner notified the university community that the project now included a proposal for a Bush Institute, independent of SMU and answerable only to the Bush Foundation (the funding arm for the library).
Faculty Senate President Rhonda Blair convoked a special faculty meeting Jan. 9 to discuss the proposal. A list of questions and concerns was prepared, which President Turner addressed on Jan. 17 at the spring general faculty meeting. His remarks have not allayed some of these concerns.
Much of the SMU community and the broader public have been misled by publicity suggesting faculty opposition to SMU’s hosting the future George W. Bush Presidential Library. What is true is that many faculty members are concerned about the Bush Foundation’s proposal for an autonomous, ideologically-driven policy institute.
According to President Turner’s letter of January 5: “Some presidential libraries are associated with academic schools created in conjunction with each library � Instead of a new school at SMU, under discussion is the establishment of a George W. Bush Institute. Although some comparisons have been made between this entity and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, a key difference would be that the Hoover Institution reports to Stanford University, while the proposed Bush Institute would report to the Bush Foundation.”
The professors signed below represent a diverse group of faculty who strongly feel the need for a broader campus discussion of the issues at the heart of the proposal for an independent Bush Institute. We stand for the principles of academic freedom and intellectual integrity central to any university. President Turner insists that these principles will be preserved if we accept the current proposal. We believe they will be preserved only if the proposed Bush Institute is accountable to our president, trustees and faculty, as is the case with all other institutes on our campus.