More on the Vodicka case and the Bush Library from the SMU Daily Campus

March 27, 2007

University Gardens case comes back to life
Mark Norris
SMU Daily Campus
March 27, 2007

A federal judge has sent Gary Vodicka’s lawsuit against SMU back to a state district court. The move came after Vodicka asked the case be remanded because he dropped federal racketeering charges against the university.

“It’s good for us,” Vodicka said of the decision. The Daily Campus was unable to get a comment from SMU representatives after multiple attempts Monday, but representatives expressed disappointment with the judge’s decision in a Saturday article in the Dallas Morning News.

The move brings the case back to the front of the Bush Library debate, as some are saying that it is delaying the acquisition of the complex. Vodicka said he does not believe that is true and that a choice was made long ago.

Vodicka sued SMU in August 2005 saying the university defrauded him and intimidated others out of the University Gardens condominium complex.

Continued here.

Demonstration, Gonzales Mess, Continued Discussion of Bush Institute

March 20, 2007

Yesterday afternoon as I was walking to my car in a stupor I saw three news helicopters circling overhead — I wondered what was going on, and particularly whether the school had announced the closing of the Bush complex deal. Then I heard drums and chanting as I got further south, and remembered the demonstration to mark the anniversary of the Iraq war, which ended up with a rally near the site of the proposed library. I’m sure this will be one of many if the Bush complex does indeed come to campus. All was peaceful and seemingly cheerful — even the local Fox affiliate gave a relatively neutral account that presented the views of some demonstrators and a carload of somewhat pissy SMU students who seemed put off by the gathering. The police were ready for much worse — there were about 20 squad cars and a bus-sized paddy wagon deployed in the gym’s parking lot in case things hadn’t gone so well.

Both the Dallas Morning News and the Daily Campus covered the demonstration, noting its ties to the proposed library complex and to the anniversary of the now-unpopular war. Today’s campus paper also ran a student editorial trying to offer an optimistic take on the violence in Iraq — terribly unconvincingly, to my mind — and a nicely-executed account of the Methodist Board’s approval of SMU’s request for land use for the Bush complex that also glossed the recent Congressional actions on Executive Order 13233 and the disclosure of library fund-raising.

Theology Professor Susanne Johnson, one of the first to speak out against the Bush complex, weighed in with a thoughtful editorial suggesting that approval of the Institute may violate SMU’s charter.

According to Article 13, real estate of the corporation “may be sold or leased only by the consent of the South Central Jurisdictional Conference,” and then “only for religious or educational purposes.” As defined in Article 4, the meaning of “educational purposes” cannot be stretched far enough to include a politically partisan institute such as that conceived and articulated by George W. Bush.

Johnson concludes that

We do not have to break by-laws and breach covenants to attain what is of lasting academic value for our university. SMU can embrace the Presidential Library and Museum, but ask that the partisan institute be built off-campus. By proceeding within the bounds both of law and of reason, all stakeholders will obtain what they most value and emerge with integrity intact.

This suggests that the debate within the Methodist Church may not be done with.

Meanwhile, the U.S. attorney scandal continues, with mounting pressure on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign. Our law school gave him an honorary alum award last month — brilliant timing. Along with prominent alum Harriet Mier’s renewed prominence as an apparent advocate of securing the dismissal of all U.S. attorneys, SMU’s hosting of Bush-Cheney victory rallies in the last two Presidential election cycles, the heavy overlap of SMU Board members and Bush campaign fundraisers, the close ties between Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and SMU’s young School of Education, and now the library and institute plans, SMU is well on its way to being massively identified with the Bush administration, both publicly and institutionally. Whether this close level of identification is in our best long-term interests remains an open question to many on campus.

High stakes for UP park vote

March 16, 2007

High stakes for UP park vote
Wendy Hundley
The Dallas Morning News
March 14, 2007

On May 12, University Park residents will decide whether to sell a tiny park that could have big consequences for the city, while voters in Richardson and Addison will elect City Council members.

Four seats on the Richardson school board will be on the ballot. Highland Park ISD is expected to cancel its election for lack of contested races.

University Park voters will be occupied with a single issue. Although Potomac Park occupies only a sliver of town real estate, residents will decide whether it should be sold to Southern Methodist University. The land could be used as part of the Bush presidential library if SMU officially lands the facility.

Continued here.

Anti-war march set near possible Bush library site

March 11, 2007

Anti-war march set near possible Bush library site
Holly K. Hacker
The Dallas Morning News
March 8, 2007

Several North Texas groups plan to mark the fourth anniversary of the Iraq invasion with a march for peace, near the rumored site of the future Bush presidential library at Southern Methodist University.

At least 10 groups are involved, according to march leaders. Beth Freed, a volunteer at the Dallas Peace Center, said the main purpose is to call for an end to the Iraq war. But she said marchers are also opposing the Bush library, and especially a related partisan think tank, that’s probably coming to SMU.

Continued here.

Dallas Resident Offers Perspective on Bush Library, Institute from Outside Academia

February 23, 2007

Since much of the discussion about the Bush Complex revolves around the question if its impact on SMU’s public standing, I turned to a friend who is not an academic — I do have a few, but only a few — for his perspective. He’s exactly the kind of person who an institution like SMU would want to think highly of it — educated, thoughtful, with children who will be in college in the not-too-distant future. I flinched when I read his description of how he perceives SMU, but he’s far from the only person with this view.


Professor Johnson asked me to comment on the Bush Library debate from the perspective of an outsider.

I have been a Dallas area resident (on and off) since 1978.

Politically, I consider myself to have strong Libertarian shading. I am an ex -“big tent” Republican who left when the party turned into something more like a tent revival. I am disgusted and disappointed at the performance and competence of Mr. Bush and his administration. But my views on the Bush Library are not the reflection of any rabid anti-Bush or anti-Republican sentiment.

My fiancée is a historian (not at SMU). Since I met her, it has been interesting to learn about academia. As a “civilian”, there is so much about the inner workings of a university that seem counter-intuitive, and even bizarre. But I have gained enough knowledge to understand the process going on at SMU is important for the Dallas and SMU, given the big money, prestige and internal/external politics involved.

As for the library itself, a few points. First, it is going to be at SMU, no matter what. The people that are behind this get what they want, especially in Dallas. However, the debate about the Library is creating activism and passion on both sides and that can only be a good. As John Raisian, the Director of the Hoover Institution, observes, “ideas have consequences, and a free flow of competing ideas leads to an evolution of policy consequences affecting the well-being of society. The Hoover Institution endeavors to be a preeminent contributor of ideas having positive consequences.”

If the Bush library can be a place where there is a free flow of ideas, then I am for it. Thus far, I have not been convinced this is the case. In large part this is because of Executive Order 13233, which disgusts me. I feel guilty as a citizen for not knowing about it before the Bush library debate erupted. The lack of access that historians and other researchers will have to records is very troubling. The philosophical issue disturbs me more. Mr. Bush’s records do not personally belong to him! There are plenty of laws to protect national security already on the books, so that argument is ridiculous. 13233 is a blatant attempt to hide something, and if a Democrat had done it, the right wingers would be going insane. Of all the issues brought up by the debate over the Library, this is the one that resonates the most for me.

As for the Bush Institute, it is OK with me so long as the people involved on both sides (the academics at SMU and the people participating in the Institute) are satisfied with relationship between the two entities. I understand why SMU professors don’t want the Institute to represent its activities as being part of SMU. I get the feeling that the idea of joint appointments of faculty to the Institute and SMU is cute way of installing professors who represent what Bush and his cronies believe to be something in short supply – right-wing professors. But really, does the general public even understand what goes on at a Presidential Library, and why they should think it is important? I don’t believe this idea has been explored well enough in any media.

The ongoing discussion also raises some interesting points about SMU. I realized years ago that Dallas is missing the influence a university provides. Not necessarily a GREAT University, but ANY University. Great cities have a diversity of thought and people. A university injects this into a city’s social fabric. SMU has never provided this, and Dallas has suffered for it.

I see SMU as a school where affluent families send their kids when they can’t get into more academically prestigious universities. SMU students are expected to find a suitable mate as they drink their way through four or five years of fraternity and sorority parties. It doesn’t seem to be academically rigorous, or produce quality graduates who go on to make a big impact outside of Dallas.

To the outsider, it is a pretty campus in a ritzy area with lots of students in expensive clothes and cars. The topic of SMU almost never comes up in conversation with anyone I know outside of academia. It is as if, outside of the bubble of the Park Cities, SMU does not even exist. It has no impact on my perception of Dallas as a city or a region because it is seemingly invisible.

The Bush library, if it is constructed correctly, could have the effect of raising SMU’s profile as a university. However, if this process is just another big money Dallas railroad job, and the Institute and Library are not a serious academic and public policy resources for scholars (both academic and non-academic), then the entire thing becomes a farce and a candy coated revisionist Bush museum. This would be the worst of all possible outcomes for both Dallas and SMU.

The debate about the Bush library, and the opportunity to meet several faculty members, has raised my estimation of SMU as an academic institution. There are people who are passionate, and SMU is not just a monolithic institution churning out young affluent Republicans to populate the exurbs.

So – from an outsider’s view (though I am slightly biased because of my connection to a historian), I see an opportunity for the prestige of SMU and Dallas to be greatly enhanced, ONLY if the Library and Institute are set up in a way that maintains the credibility of both institutions.

Dallas Morning News on Terror Threat

February 10, 2007

The question of the Library’s impact on the Park Cities is another angle of this debate, one I don’t know much about and don’t have a lot of stake in. But it can be important — remember that the Reagan Library at Stanford was defeated in part because of local opposition. Much of the concerns in Dallas seem to focus on the questions of security and terrorism. I’m not in a good position to evaluate them, but given the Bush administration’s repeated use of terror threats for political gain — recall particularly Condoleeza Rice and Dick Cheney’s terrifying invocations of mushroom clouds over America in the run-up to the calamitous Iraq war — the Bushes are again reaping what they have sown.

Will Bush library be a target?
Kristen Holland
Dallas Morning News
February 10, 2007

Terrorists will destroy the Bush library and take out most of the Park Cities at the same time. The question isn’t if but when, says Sam Boyd, a Park Cities lawyer.

Mr. Boyd isn’t alone.

A number of Park Cities residents say they fear that building the presidential library in University Park would be like painting a big, red target on their community.

Security and terrorism experts have mixed sentiments. Although some say presidential libraries are unlikely targets, others say Bush’s library may change that because the president is such a polarizing figure worldwide.

Continued here.

From the Dallas Observer: W. and Us

February 8, 2007

Jim Schutze is the editor and columnist of Dallas’ main “alternative” weekly. In general I find his columns alternatively hilarious, maddening, insightful, and arrogant. This one is superb — he has a real feel for how universities work, and for the gravity of the issues surrounding the Bush Institute. His conclusion that the Bush Institute may become “the emblem of SMU and of this city,” and his reasons why this may be deeply problematic, are terrifically well-put.

W. and Us
Jim Schutze
Dallas Observer
February 8, 2007

If we had the equivalent of a national sport just for Dallas, it would be “Tip-toe ‘Round the Elephant.” I do get why everybody debating the Bush library at SMU does it. The people against the library don’t want to get drawn off their base into an argument they can’t win. The people in favor of the library think the elephant is either a planter or a very large suitcase.

But it’s an elephant. The Iraq war.

Continued here.