Old Story About Bush I Library Seems Eerily Relevant for Bush II Complex

By way of a colleague I’ve just come across and old and disturbing story about the meddling of the Bush people with Texas A & M faculty members associated with the George Herbert Walker Bush school, one that directly involves President George W. Bush (then Governor of Texas).  One of the A & M professors involved has written SMU professors, warning us that “then-governor Bush had no qualms about intervening to try to restrict the academic freedom of professors in his ‘daddy’s’ school.  I don’t know if you have talked to anyone here at A&M about our experience, but I can assure that the Bushies really are worse than you can imagine.” 

According to this March 2000 story, associates of both George H.W. and George W. Bush lashed out at professors who made critical comments about them, threatening to revoke their affiliations and fellowships with the Bush School if such comments continued.  At one point Bush School Director Charles Hermann drafted a policy, which he backed away from after a firestorm of publicity, that should be a warning to my colleagues at SMU who seem to be under the impression that the Bush people are nice, collegial, open-minded intellectuals:

As a “matter of sensitivity and simple courtesy to the people who have made possible this school,” Hermann wrote, faculty members should not “use the affiliation with the Bush School in ways that cause embarrassment to the Bush family.” Hermann counseled faculty to refrain from claiming a Bush School affiliation if they intended to give “personal opinions or undocumented material pertaining to any member of the Bush family or an organization with which they are prominently associated.” In a memo, Hermann also cautioned that “failure to comply” with this policy could “lead to termination of the relationship” between the school and the offending professor.

The article continues:  “Since the incident, at least three political science professors have turned down teaching appointments to the Bush School because of the controversy. ”  I know of one case already where a senior faculty member at another university, very prominent in his field, who one department would like to target for an endowed chair, has declined to apply, citing his concerns about what the Bush complex will mean for SMU and its faculty.

Click here for the coverage, from the now-defunct magazine Lingua Franca.

Remember:  these are many of the same people that we’re talking about with the Bush complex at SMU, who already have deep ties to our board.   And remember the trajectory of the current defense secretary, Robert Gates, who started off as head of the Bush School and went on to become A & M’s President (by many accounts, a fine one).  And remember that the arrangement proposed with the Bush Institute — on campus, with the possibility of concurrent appointments with SMU departments, but one that doesn’t have the Institute reporting to SMU administrators or practicing standard academic hiring procedures — means that these people will have fewer checks (none?) than they do at A & M.  SMU’s current President and Provost wouldn’t stand for the kind of nonsense that Hermann tried (or else I wouldn’t be saying any of this, as a professor up for tenure) — but they won’t be around forever, and won’t have any say in the running of the Bush Institute.

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3 Responses to Old Story About Bush I Library Seems Eerily Relevant for Bush II Complex

  1. Maarja Krusten says:

    Of course, despite the headline, what you are describing here and what the old article in Lingua Franca discusses is not the Bush Library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) but rather the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. Nor did Bob Gates ever serve as director of the Bush Library.

    The NARA administered Bush Library was headed from 1997 to 2004 by David Alsobrook. For an article by Dr. Alsobrook about the establishment of the Library, see
    http://bushlibrary.tamu.edu/giq.html

    Submitted from home on personal time at 8:39 am Eastern time

  2. heber4 says:

    Right, thanks for correcting my error re Gates’s position. (I’ve altered the post). Of course, the package under discussion with SMU includes the Bush Institute, so this is not a stand-alone deal.

  3. George Henson says:

    Along the very same lines, out of Florida comes the news that Bush allies in the Republican-controlled Florida legislature just passed a bill requiring the University of Florida to change the name of their College of Education to the Jeb Bush College of Education, as payback to the Univ. of Florida Faculty Senate who voted to deny brother Jeb an honorary degree.

    “Upset by this lack of Jeb Bush adoration, the conservative-controlled House Schools & Learning Council voted yesterday to force the university to rename its education school the “Jeb Bush College of Education.

    “Over the faculty’s opposition, the school will now have “to erect ‘suitable markers‘ noting the college’s new name and include the revised name in all university documents, including catalogues and brochures.” The lawmakers acknowledge they “came up with the idea as an answer” to the faculty’s denial of Bush’s honorary degree.”

    Anyone who thinks that Bush and/or his cronies, i.e. lawmakers, trustess, won’t push their weight around is truly naive. How long before SMU becomes GBU?

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