Late last week Facult Senate President Rhonda Blair circulated the response of SMU President R. Gerald Turner and the SMU Board of Trustees to the senate resolutions of several weeks before. The first resolution endorsed SMU historians’ denunciation of Executive Order 13233, which grants Presidents and their designees and descendents extensive powers to restrict access to Presidential documents in perpetuity, and asked President Turner to appeal to Bush for its repeal. The second expressed concern and asked for responses on a number of issues relating to the Bush institute, including the questions of how fellows would be appointed, whether SMU would raise money for its share of concurrent appointments with Bush Fellows, how concurrent appointments would be made, how the Institute would be governed, and about the inclusion of faculty in the negotiations. These are important issues, and the Senate was right to raise them.
In contrast, President Turner’s reponse borders on the farcical. It’s not a response at all, really, but rather a patronizing piece of bureaucratese that expresses appreciation for the Senate’s comments but does not actually respond to them. On the executive order, roundly condemned last week on capitol hill, President Turner passes the matter on to the Library Selection Committee, ignoring the specific request for him to back the Senate and SMU historians. On the other resolution, he says merely that
the Board continues to expect the best interests of the University to be upheld in developing a mutually beneficial library project agreement consistent with SMU’s mission and values. Such an agreement will enable research and dialogue on the administration of President George W. Bush to take place at the Presidential Library located on our campus. With the productive input provided, of which the Faculty Senate has been an important part, the Board and I are confident that this will be achieved.
This is a brush-off, and if the faculty Senate has any respect for its own authority, and any real wish to express faculty sentiment or concerns, it can’t let this arrogant non-response pass.
Here is Turner’s full statement:
Response of the Board of Trustees and the University President to the Resolutions of the Faculty Senate
On February 19, in conformance with the Bylaws of the Board of Trustees, the Faculty Senate sent forward two resolutions regarding the George W. Bush Presidential Library project for Board consideration. I shared these documents with members of the Board, and the resolutions were included on the agenda of two Board committees for discussion February 22.
The Board Committee on Academic Policy, Planning and Management reviewed the guidelines on concurrent appointments recommended by the faculty Academic Planning Committee for the Bush Library project. This speaks to the Senate resolution item concerning academic standards and procedures for concurrent appointments between SMU and the proposed Institute. The Legal Affairs Committee reviewed all other issues expressed in the resolutions.
The Committees fully discussed issues assigned to them. The Committee members had the benefit of the full participation of Faculty Senate President Rhonda Blair in gaining faculty perspectives on the issues before them. Faculty perspectives were particularly welcome in regard to academic freedom and excellence in higher education, guidelines for concurrent appointments and access to materials in Presidential Libraries. Each Committee reported its deliberations and recommendations to the full Board on February 23 for further discussion.
The Board expressed its support of the recommendations of the faculty Academic Planning Committee concerning concurrent appointments. Regarding the Senate’s Resolution concerning Executive Order 13233, it was the consensus of the Board that the proper channel for communicating and deliberating issues raised within the University related to the Presidential Library project is through the Library Selection Committee. Accordingly, this issue will be shared with the Selection Committee. As to the remaining issues contained in the resolutions, the Board continues to expect the best interests of the University to be upheld in developing a mutually beneficial library project agreement consistent with SMU’s mission and values. Such an agreement will enable research and dialogue on the administration of President George W. Bush to take place at the Presidential Library located on our campus. With the productive input provided, of which the Faculty Senate has been an important part, the Board and I are confident that this will be achieved.
The Board asked me, and I join with the Board, in expressing its appreciation to the Faculty Senate for its leadership in facilitating campus discussion on this topic of importance to the University, and for the respect the Senate and the faculty have shown to University processes.
R. Gerald Turner