On Wednesday afternoon at its regularly scheduled meeting, the Faculty Senate will consider whether to hold a referendum on the Bush Institute as currently proposed, and whether to issue its own statement to President Turner requesting clarification on a number of issues, including the governance of the institute, joint appointments, and Executive Order 13233. Agendas and copies of the resolution have been circulated to Faculty Senate members, but not to the faculty as a whole. I believe that the meeting will be held in Umphrey Lee.
A good friend sends me this report of the University Park City Council meeting on Tuesday evening:
At the meeting of the University Park city council this evening, the sale of the city property called Potomac Park to SMU was the first item on the agenda. SMU President Turner addressed the council and crowded room, noting that SMU had wished to acquire the property since the 1990s, before there were any considerations of a Presidential Library on the location. He pointed out that University Park residents have long used SMU’s campus as a park for walking with children and pets, and assured them that the new facilities would be maintained at the previous high level. (Later, a local resident responded that while UP treated the campus like a park, SMU had used her street as a parking lot since she bought her home in the 1970s).
Then the “pros” and the “antis” were each given 30 minutes to address the meeting, with 3 minutes for each person to make his or her statement. All those who planned to speak were requested to refrain from making any political statements and to focus on the sale of the land. Those in favor of the proposition generally appeared to feel that Potomac Park did not function as a park, would be no great loss, and that SMU was a good neighbor and they trusted President Turner and the city council to make the proper decision.
Those who spoke in opposition identified a number of reasons to reject the proposal, including the preservation of green space and mature trees, the loss of a buffer against noise, and concerns about increased traffic in the area. But the dominant theme was terrorism — an incredibly ironic comment on the Bush administration’s constant ratcheting up of anxiety and fear of attack by scary brown Muslim people over the past six years. A trial lawyer and former Green Beret warned that those who favored the proposal were “naïve” and that an aerial attack was a genuine threat; then what would they all do, after a Saudi flew a plane into the building? Several others voiced similar worries about terrorist attacks and the dangers posed to their families, drawing bursts of applause until the council requested such demonstrations to cease. It is not clear to what extent their fears are shared by others in the community, but the proposal goes to University Park voters in May.
This morning the BBC ran a report on the library-institute debate, which featured a nice photo of our oak trees and accurately summarized the focus on secrecy and the institute. Inside Higher Ed has a very interesting article about the extent to which professional groups (archivists, librarians, and others) are now using the library debate to press their concerns about Bush’s Executive Order 13233, which gives him and his designess unprecendented power to control access to his presidential records. (The order is currently under litigation). At least one wire service has also run a similar story.
This article is very interesting not only for the way it captures the opposition to Bush’s policies and their implications for research and the library, but also for the larger light that it casts on SMU. In a sense it confirms the claims of library-institute boosters — SMU has already achieved a greater prominence within higher education simply by virtue of being the finalist. On the other hand, one of the reasons we’ve achieved this prominence is because of those of us raising the concerns about the library and institute — in this sense, all of us at SMU, whether we realize it or not, have been working on the same side of things. SMU Senior Lecturer Barbara Kincaid recognizes this in today’s SMU Daily Campus, in a nice piece entitled “Passionate Debate Shows SMU’s Good Side.”
Finally, an interesting letter to the editor of the Daily Campus suggests pairing the Bush Institute with a different outfit:
a building that houses both the Bush Institute and the SMU Institute for the Study and Promotion of Human Rights and Peaceful Diplomacy. A major goal of this twin kinship would be the fostering of respectful dialogue and an end to demonizing the opposition. All facilities in the building except for private offices would be shared – including the restrooms, elevators, cafeteria, gym, you name it.
This is extremely unlikely to happen, but shows how much people on and off campus continue to think about the host of issues raised by the library and institute.
As of February 5, 2007, the petition started by protectsmu.org had been signed by over 10,000 people. A surprising number of those signers, hundreds or even 1000 or more, have identified themselves as SMU alums; so many, in fact, that I wonder if alumni response in snail mail or telephone calls has been at all equivalent. Is anyone listening to their concerns? I post here just a sampling from the petition’s first 5,000 signatures; many more sigs can be viewed here.
123 Tena Hollingsworth My husband and I are alums of the SMU School of Law and we are a appalled at this. We will never give another dime to the school if this “library” is built there. It is a travesty.
225 Tyson Ervin I am a former student of Southern Methodist University and strongly disagree with this library. SMU’s name will forever be tarnished and will be cut off from valuable contributions of individuals in prominent positions around the world. On a personal note, I will not be as quick to tell people that I went to SMU and my school pride will be diminished as the majority of the public will find this an embarrassment for the school.
401 Mack Fulton Harrell As a graduate of SMU, I cannot voice my protest against this egregious bit of pandering too loudly. NO! NO! NO! TEN-THOUSAND TIMES NO!
404 Elizabeth Moseley No affiliation – severely lapsed Catholic but thinks Methodists are OK. I attended SMU and received my diploma from there. I don’t want my expensive education to be devalued because of this library. George Bush is -and history will bear out – a lying, psychopathic, murderous bastard. He should be impeached for lying to the world about Iraq. Why would SMU or ANY institution of higher learning want to be associated with him?
533 Katherine Blanchard Methodist. and SMU MA, Art History, 2005. I do not believe that the majority of faculty nor alumnae support the Bush Presidency as much as Dallas and SMU would like you to believe. As a Methodist I also agree that the linking of the religion with the standards of conduct undertaken by the current administration lends a unwelcome comparison and assumed support.
562 Cynthia J Gwinn United Methodist I am an alumnus and former employee of SMU and I also object in the strongest terms possible to this affiliation. George W. Bush, his policies and his actions as President, do not represent my university.
752 Lamar White United Methodist. My father, grandfather, two uncles, and two aunts are all SMU graduates. My sister is a current SMU junior, and I am a graduate of the Cox School Summer Business Institute.
1285 Michael McGee As an SMU Alumni member I’m ashamed that my alma mater would consider supporting the creation of a Bush Library on the campus. Gerald Turner has made amazing progress with the university becoming a part of the larger community – this would be a step back to be affiliated so closely with the failed policies of President Bush.
1562 Christopher Ainsworth Methodist. I am a third generation SMU graduate and very opposed to the affiliation with the Bush Library
1699 Roy D. Rinkle S.M.U. graduate 1958 Harvard University rejected the location of the J.F.K. Library on its campus because of the traffic and congestion. University Park is just as vulnerable as Cambridge. S.M.U. should not be associated with the Bush Library. It will demean the reputation of the University forever and insult the pride we feel for our Alma Mater. Submitted with great respect for the leadership of Dr. Gerald Turner and appreciation for the influence A.M.U. has had on me.
1941 Sara L. Sanders I am a member of the United Methodist church, and am a graduate of SMU. I do NOT want the Bush Library associated with my alma mater.
1955 Matt Alholm I am not a Methodist but I am a proud SMU alumni. Any petition trying to stop this embarrassment is a good thing. Class of 1996.
2272 David Johnson Not Affiliated with the Church, but I am a graduate of Southern Methodist University with a 2001 BA and a 2004 JD. Associating SMU, or any University in the United States with President George Bush is a step backwards in this nation’s treatment of personal liberty and freedoms. President Bush should not be so honored at SMU.
2319 Michael Crane Graduate of SMU. Class of 1978. Had 3 of 4 siblings attend/graduate SMU. The fact that SMU is considering spending one penny on a horrible president, George Bush, is a slap in the face to every person who ever attended the school. I will never give another dollar to SMU if this library goes through. George Bush is an embarrassment to the nation and the world. SMU will be bringing disgrace upon its name if it gets the library. Bush stands for precisely the opposite of what any caring, thoughtful person believes. SMU will be the laughing stock of universities if the library goes through. DO NOT DO IT!!!!
2411 Dwight McAnally Methodist.. I hold two degrees from SMU and hate to see this wonderful universilty sullied by association with a man who thinks he’s above the law.
2456 Benjamin van der Wel No affiliation, but SMU Class of 1988. As an alumnus I object to the establishment of this library at SMU for the same reasons as the Methodist Church — such a library would be incompatible with SMU’s mission, history and future.
2599 Anton Skowronski I’m not affiliated with the church, however, I am an alumni of S.M.U. (class of 97). It would be sad if the university choose to be forever tied to a closed minded, secretive, faliure of a presidency. It would not represent the diverse education that I recieved. It would be a stain on the university’s image.
609 Barry J. Cochran Polk Street United Methodist Church, Amarillo, Texas As a former University Scholar at SMU, I am extremely distressed to have our great university associated with the disturbing Bush legacy. Once built, the library cannot be demolished, and history will judge neither Bush nor his associates kindly.
3619 Gene Richardson Why would SMU want to honor a President that will go down in history as the one man that has taken away over two hundred years of progress for the USA? What a terrible way to treat your Alum…..MLA 76
783 Rae H. Stoll, Ph.D. As a graduate of SMU (M.A., 1965) and former instructor of English there, I find the prospect that the University may become the home of the Bush library and a right-wing think tank profoundly disturbring. The Methodist church, through the university, should not appear to welcome–and therefore to sanction–an administration so deeply mired in unconstitutional and immoral behavior as is this administration. I have always considered SMU my ethical home. Associating itself with the administration of G. W. Bush would be a betrayal of what I learned and taught there.
Read many more alumni protests from the Protect SMU Petition.