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.