Faculty Senate Update: SMU President Responds to Resolutions

February 21, 2007

The faculty Senate met this afternoon. The meeting was largely occupied with matters other than the Bush Library and Institute, but the administration’s responses to last week’s resolutions was revealed. It’s pretty clear to me that the clock is going to run out — that a final deal will be struck with the Bush people, including surely an Institute, and almost certainly one nestled within SMU without playing by a university’s rules — before the faculty Senate actually goes on the record about what structure for an institute they find unwise or unacceptable. There just doesn’t seem to be much of a will to press the issue. My hunch is that SMU is going to strike a deal with the Bush people unlike any previous Presidential library-institute, and unlike any relationship between a university and a think tank of which I am aware, and the faculty are not going to assert themselves in any meaningful way at this historical moment for SMU.

President Turner essentially opted not to act on the Senate’s resolution asking him to request the revocation of Executive Order 13233. (This was part of the resolution endorsing the SMU historians’ condemnation of Executive Order 13233, which will allow for Bush and his designees and descendents in perpetuity to unilaterally assert executive privilege to prevent researchers from examining documents in the library). Since President Turner negotiates not directly with President George W. Bush, but rather with Don Evans, former Secretary of Commerce and the chair of Bush’s library team, he won’t have the opportunity to mention this to George!

A graceful dodge. Not surprising, I suppose — there’s no reason to believe that Bush would revoke his order. This is, as his fans would acknowledge as surely as his critics, not a man who changes his mind often or admits mistakes. Nonetheless, it’s somewhat embarassing to me that my university’s president is unwilling to go on record backing the same position as all of his own university’s historians, the American Political Science Association, the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association, and others professional organizations. This does not bode well for SMU’s administration’s willingness to stand up to the Bush people in the future.

The second resolution from last week, a request for clarification on a number of issues surrounding the institute, has been referred to a committee of the Board of Trustees. I’m sure that the deal will be long since done by the time they get back to the Senate.