Faculty Request Referendum on Bush Institute

January 25, 2007

Here is the press release that went out this morning about the petition for a referendum. The idea of a referendum appeals to some who might well end up voting for the Institute and is opposed by some who are very suspicious of the institute (on procedural grounds). I suspect that this call for a referendum will dominate debate on campus for at least the next week. The 170 or so signatures is a real show of strength for those of us concerned about the Institute — it would have been many more had those of circulating it not felt the need to move quickly, before SMU finalizes its arrangements with the Bush people. It remains to be seen what the overall faculty sentiment about the Institute is, which is why a referendum is such a good idea, and why I very much hope that SMU’s spokespeople will stop depicting opponents and doubters as a small minority. Here’s the press release, which includes the text of the petition:

Today faculty leaders announced that a significant portion of SMU’s faculty has signed a petition asking for an all-faculty referendum on the acceptability of the Bush Institute.

SMU has been named by the Bush administration as the final contender for the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. A Bush Institute, a partisan think-tank aimed at advancing issues of concern to President Bush, is a part of the deal, and has attracted faculty scrutiny and national press attention. Under the Bush people’s plans, fellows of the Institute would be appointed by a director who reports to the private Bush foundation, not to SMU or to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which would be in charge of the Presidential library.

“Nobody is objecting to the Presidential Library, which we hope will come to SMU,” said Dr. David Freidel, University Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and a former President of SMU’s Faculty Senate. “The Institute, however, is an unprecedented departure for SMU in that it lends our university’s name and credibility to a partisan institute over which we would not actually exercise oversight. I don’t know of another arrangement like this in all of American higher education.”

Concern about the institute is widespread among faculty members. 170 signed the petition, including faculty from all of SMU’s six schools, past Faculty Senate Presidents, department chairs, and distinguished professors. “We weren’t able to talk to nearly as many of our colleagues as we would have liked,” said Freidel, “and many untenured professors were reluctant to sign,” but “there is still grave concern about the Institute across the university and the petition has met with enormous support” he added.

According to the Faculty Senate Constitution, the signatures of thirty faculty members are sufficient to put an item on the Faculty Senate’s agenda. Another clause states that the Senate’s “powers and duties” include monitoring “the activities of non-School academic institutes and programs.”

The faculty who circulated the petition hope that it will continue the discussion already underway. History Professor Tom Knock, who studies and writes about the presidency, said that “the discussion that the faculty and President and Turner had yesterday was extremely helpful, and it needs to continue.” About the Institute he said “there is still widespread concern about it – not about the Library, but about the Institute.” He added that “a referendum gives everyone on the faculty a vote.”

The Text of the Petition:

Whereas the prospect of the George W. Bush Presidential Library coming to campus could offer SMU valuable opportunities;

Whereas on December 21, 2006, President Turner announced that Southern Methodist University was declared the sole finalist as the site for Bush Library;

 

Whereas the Bush Foundation has proposed, as part of its vision for a library and museum, an Institute that would remain independent of SMU;

 

Whereas President Turner stated in his letter to the faculty of January 5, 2007, that “the proposed Bush Institute would report to the Bush Foundation” rather than to the University;

 

Whereas Article IV, sec. 2b of the Faculty Senate Constitution states that the Senate’s “powers and duties” include monitoring “the activities of non-School academic institutes and programs”;

 

And whereas Article VI of the Faculty Senate Constitution provides that the signatures of thirty full-time faculty members can mandate a subject for Faculty Senate consideration;

 

THEREFORE we, the undersigned full-time faculty members of Southern Methodist University, request that by February 12, 2007, the Faculty Senate hold a referendum of the entire faculty on the acceptability of the Bush Institute as currently proposed.

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More Local Opposition, Concern over Bush Library

January 25, 2007

Another group rears its head in SMU’s Bush library bid
Dallas Business Journal
January 25, 2007

Another faith-based group has launched a campaign to stop the George W. Bush Presidential Library from being built at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Hope for Peace & Justice, a faith-based social justice organization based in Dallas, says it is concerned about the reputation of Dallas and the safety of local residents if the library and proposed think tank are built at SMU, as the “Bush Library will no doubt be a terrorist target,”said the Rev. Michael Piazza, president of Hope for Peace & Justice.

The group has launched an online petition and Web site at www.stopthelibrary.com.

In their petition, the group also cites increased traffic along U.S. 75 and the Mockingbird Lane area, where SMU is located, and concerns about the infrastructure needed to support the extra traffic, as well as security concerns stemming from the increased number of visitors.

President “Clinton’s library boasted 750,000 visitors last year. Imagine 750,000 people clogging Mockingbird Lane, 75 and the rest of Park Cities’ streets,” the group says in a statement on its Web site.

Piazza sent letters to the Dallas, Highland Park and University Park mayors and city councilors asking them to pass resolutions against the library.

“Dallas has worked for decades to escape the reputation as the ‘City that killed Kennedy,'” said Rev. Piazza. “We do not need to return to that right- wing reputation. Playing host to Mr. Bush’s well-funded, neo-conservative think-tank will taint our reputation indelibly. Residents need to guard their reputation and say, ‘No thank you Mr. President.'”

An SMU representative wasn’t immediately available for comment Thursday.

SMU, a private university in Dallas with about 11,000 students, learned last month that it was the apparent sole finalist for the presidential library. Baylor University in Waco and the University of Dallas in Irving also were bidding for the library. The University of Dallas on Monday withdrew its bid for the Bush library.

Last week, a group of Methodist ministers launched an online petition urging SMU’s board of trustees to reject the $500 million library. SMU faculty members also have voiced concerns about affiliating the university with the Bush library and think tank.

SMU’s board, which contains three seats held by Methodist bishops and also has two other board members that are clergy, has supported building the university’s pursuit of the library every step of the way, Brad Cheves, SMU’s vice president for external affairs and development, told the Dallas Business Journal last week.

Continued here.


Faculty meeting focuses on Bush Institute

January 25, 2007

There was also some discussion of President Bush’s executive order from 2001, which gives him and his designees unprecedented control over access to official documents generated under his administration.

Faculty meeting focuses on Bush Institute
Mark Norris
SMU Daily Campus
January 25, 2007

The third faculty meeting in as many weeks about the George W. Bush Presidential Library was filled with tough, respectful questions for SMU President R. Gerald Turner.

That’s according to the faculty members who streamed out of the Hughes-Trigg Ballroom Wednesday afternoon following a nearly two-hour meeting that was an open discussion about the controversial project.

The meeting was closed to the media, but multiple faculty members stopped on their way out to share impressions of the most wide-ranging discussion yet on what the complex could mean to SMU.

According to those interviewed, no faculty member spoke against the entire complex. The largest concern is the institute/think tank. Faculty asked about the need for it and how it would fall under SMU’s control.

Continued here.


Robert Wilonsky in the Dallas Observer

January 25, 2007

A fairly obnoxious piece — my colleague, Susanne Johnson, has been subjected to a lot of attacks that border on the ad hominem, from many quarters — but does reflect the extent to which the debate on campus has now come to focus largely (though not entirely) on the Institute.

SMU Profs Easily Housebroken, Looks Like
Robert Wilonsky
The Dallas Observer
January 25, 2007

Susanne Johnson, SMU Christian prof, isn’t so rankled by the Dubya library no more. Shame.

You have two choices this morning: You can read the Associated Press’ piece about SMU profs softening their stance on the George Dubya Library, or you can go to my new favorite blog – The Bush Library Blog, run by assistant professor of history Benjamin Johnson – to get a first-hand accounting of how SMU prez Gerald Turner got them rabble-rousers to put down their rabble and stop being so ‘roused. Me, I’m a bit disappointed that associate Christian-ed prof Susanne Johnson and retired theology prof William McElvaney could be so easily assuaged; after all, they’re the authors of the pissed-off missive that started this debate in the first place. But now, looks like the folks who blamed the e-mail on the dog are tucking tails twixt legs.

Continued here.


University Holds Meeting on Bush Library

January 25, 2007

University Holds Meeting on Bush Library
SMU Faculty Concerned About Reputation, Political Interference
Matthew C. Wright
The Washington Post
Thursday, January 25, 2007

DALLAS, Jan. 24 — Members of the Southern Methodist University faculty again raised concerns that the building of the George W. Bush presidential library on campus might damage the school’s reputation, said a participant at a closed-door meeting on Wednesday.

At the tightly guarded meeting, several members of the faculty questioned school president R. Gerald Turner about the political institute that will accompany the library. The institute will conduct research on issues that will be determined by Bush. Many of the questioners wondered whether such a powerful institution on campus will influence the type of research that can be conducted by SMU faculty and whether it will have an impact on the university’s reputation.

Continued here.