History Professor Reports on Jan. 24 Faculty Meeting With President Turner

January 24, 2007

Thanks to my colleague Professor Kathleen Wellman, our French historian — every department has to have one! — for writing this. I missed the first half of the meeting of the Faculty Senate, since I was teaching my class on the history of natural disasters.

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President Turner met with the faculty senate in a meeting open to all faculty. About two hundred faculty were present, a turnout reflecting the high degree of faculty interest and concern about the Bush Library and Institute, as well as their deep commitment to their university.

President Turner expressed his view that over time the library, museum, and institute would become less partisan in character. He also expressed the belief that research generated by an such an institute would in the long run have to reflect standards of good scholarship. Despite this belief, many faculty expressed concerns about the possibility of faculty or academic oversight of these institutions. The Library provoked concern from a faculty member about President Bush’s executive order giving the president and his family representatives unprecedented ability to restrict access for as long as they see fit [for further discussion of this, see Ben Hufbauer’s piece on the “Key Resources” page]. The limited funding for the National Archives and Records Administration, which makes the cataloguing so slow that, for example, only 7% of the materials of George H. W. Bush are yet available, was another faculty concern about the library.

But virtually all faculty questions focused on their concerns with the proposed Bush Institute. Even taking President’s Turner’s exhortation to think long term, Faculty expressed concern about the impact of such an Institute on SMU. They expressed specific concerns that our efforts to recruit a diverse student body would be adversely affected by our greater connection to the Bush administration. Or that the Institute would jeopardize our attempts to become a more prominent, national university. They were also discomfited by the unspecified character of joint appointments of Bush fellows to university positions. While faculty are hired to meet specific needs within departments, to treats fields of inquiry shaped by academic disciplines, and tenured and promoted because of their contributions to their disciplines, Bush Fellows would instead be hired simply by the director of the Bush Institute who would have been appointed by and be accountable only to the Bush foundation. Unlike faculty, the fellows would instead be hired for their commitment to an ideological perspective. The fellows of the institute might then produce research which might reflect poorly on SMU or skew our hirings in ways that serve the interests of the Bush Institute more than the university.

While the meeting was at times intense, it was also polite and respectful Faculty were pleased with President Turner’s willingness to address these concerns with them, since until December, when a Faculty Senate meeting raised some of these issues, there was been very limited discussion of SMU’s proposal largely because of intense competition between Texas cities and universities for the library. Several faculty pointed out that they had been entirely unaware that an independent institute was a requirement of the Bush Library Committee and welcomed discussion now with the hope that President Turner might be in a stronger negotiating position with the Bush Library Committee because of the Faculty’s explicit questions.

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Jim Schutze in the Dallas Observer

January 24, 2007

From the editor of the Dallas Observer, Dallas’ independent weekly.  This is really quite funny, whatever side of the debate you’re on.

Schutze is Lonely. Please Send Him Comments.
Dallas Observer
January 19, 2007

Laugh or scream, you tell me which. I don’t know what to do as I watch Southern Methodist University and the city of Dallas drift inexorably toward the Niagara of All Humiliation that will be the George W. Bush Presidential Library at SMU. The Dallas Morning News editorial page today offers a long lead editorial full of smuggly-puggly finger-wagging at a coalition of Methodist clergy and academics opposed to the library.

Continued here.


Not too late to compromise on the Bush institute

January 24, 2007

Not too late to compromise on the Bush institute
Susanne Johnson
Dallas Morning News
January 24, 2007

I wish to respond to questions about why SMU faculty members “waited” until the 11th hour to voice concerns about the prospective Bush Presidential Library, Museum and Policy Institute. Some suspect political motives. An emphatic no.

Yes, a tiny handful of faculty members were appointed to planning committees; yes, President R. Gerald Turner held confidential briefings with Faculty Senate presidents; yes, he gave occasional pitches to the Faculty Senate.

Yet to virtually the entire SMU faculty, this watershed decision has been shrouded in secrecy.

Continued here.


Don’t get too worried about a neocon invasion at SMU

January 24, 2007

Don’t get too worried about a neocon invasion at SMU
Lee Cullum
Dallas Morning News
January 24, 2007

To see how the think tank President Bush has in mind to accompany his library might work, it’s useful to look at the model he wants to follow – the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

As a media fellow there three times, most recently last spring, I can report that this is a respectable organization where the views you hear primarily are those of the Reagan wing of the Republican Party.

Continued here.