SMU Daily Campus: Students take sides in Bush library debate

April 20, 2007

Students take sides in Bush library debate
Gillian McWhirt
SMU Daily Campus
April 20, 2007

SMU has been chosen as the favorite to house the George W. Bush Presidential Library, but the campus opinion is far from unified.

“Having the presidential library at SMU will attract people from all over the world to come to the school and examine the documents of the Bush administration. It will bring worldwide recognition to the university,” said SMU alumnus Ryan Kenter.

The controversy over the library is one in a series of controversies during the Bush presidency: the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina and the Alberto Gonzales firings, just to name a few.

Despite the fact that Dallas is largely Republican, many residents don’t want Bush’s legacy affiliated with their city.

Continued here.

Bush Institute Debate Refuses to Die

March 22, 2007

While some of my colleagues have expressed a sense of fatigue over the ongoing library-institute debate, the discussion continues, with new voices and perspectives joining the chorus. A new petition asking for the removal of the institute off-campus has been circulated by email to all faculty with an initial batch of signatories, with a rejoinder (also sent by email) from another group. (I’ll try to post these missives as soon as I can, but my day job keeps interfering with these sorts of endeavors . . .)

Today’s Daily Campus contributes to the debate. The paper reports on the removal of an image of the proposed complex from a local TV station’s website, after SMU officials reported to the station that the image was inaccurate. As the article reports, SMU hasn’t revealed any artist’s rendering of the plans, and even the location of the complex on SMU’s campus remains uknown. And Shannon C. Jacuzzi weighs in with another piece about her proposed “collaborative think tank.”

Furthermore, a staff editorial entitled “Miers Embarasses Her Alma Mater” points to the current U.S. Attorney scandal as a reason for SMU to avoid over-identification with the Bush administration and its circles.

The current scandal, and its multitude of SMU connections, makes us wonder if this isn’t a huge sign that maybe it’s not the best idea to be so cozy with the Bush administration.

Just when you think things can’t get any worse, a new scandal pops up that makes you wonder what the hell is going on.

Oh well, we’re probably just overreacting.

We look forward to reading Gonzales’ defense of the firings a few years from now in his cozy office in the Bush Institute.

An interesting and plausible scenario, and my hope is that the library-institute debate and contributions like today’s student newspaper editorial, will impress upon SMU’s leadership the need not to over-identify with the Bush circles, even if the library and institute end up at SMU. Maybe the next Republican victory rally won’t be held on campus?

Campus forum on Bush Library tomorrow

March 4, 2007


An open

FORUM ON THE BUSH LIBRARY AND INSTITUTE, sponsored by the University Honors Program, SMU Democrats, and the Young Conservatives of Texas.

Format: Brief presentations by four panelists, both students and
faculty members, representing a range of opinion

Followed by open discussion from the floor

Time: Monday, March 5, 1-3 p.m.

Place: Hughes-Trigg Commons

Panelists: Professors Matthew Wilson (Political Science) andValerie Karras (Perkins School of Theology)

Students Andrew Hemming (Young Conservatives of Texas) and Katy Rowe (SMU Democrats)

Moderated by Professor Joe Kobylka (Political Science)

The object of this forum is nuanced discussion about the complex issues raised by the proposed Bush Library complex–not simple “pro and con”debate. You are invited to come and go as time permits.

The Bush Library and Institute controversy in GWU’s Hatchet

March 1, 2007

Another student newspaper, the George Washington University Hatchet, examines the controversy. The article carefully notes that the faculty are primarily concerned about the lack of governance and the think tank, while Taylor Russ, the student body president, insists that SMU’s students are “passively supportive” of the complex. However, since the administration has provided no mechanism for student input, it is not surprising they feel apathetic about this process, which also tends to refute Mr. Russ’s claim that “most students support the library.”

Presidential politics on campus from D.C. to Dallas
Clayton McCleskey
George Washington University Hatchet
February 26, 2007

Defenders of the proposal have drawn connections between the proposed Bush Institute and the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University. However, the Hoover Institution reports to Stanford University, a distinction SMU President Gerald Turner drew in an open letter to the SMU community, in which he confirmed “the proposed Bush Institute would report to the Bush Foundation.”

This has formed the center of the debate – not general opposition to the library.

“President Bush is proposing something that is – as I understand it – unprecedented: an ideological or partisan think tank that is affiliated with the University, that gets to use the name, but is not controlled by the school,” said Steven Sverdlik, an associate professor of philosophy at SMU, in an interview with The Hatchet.

Sverdlik stressed that his opposition is not against the library or against President Bush – he is concerned about the issue of governance.

Continued here.

SMU Discussion of Bush Library and Institute Now Posted

February 20, 2007

SMU journalism students have taped and posted a faculty panel’s extended discussion of the library and institute. The panel consists of History professor Alexis McCrossen, English Professor Dennis Foster, Political Scientist Cal Jillson, and Theatre Professor (and Faculty Senate President) Rhonda Blair. Student comments at an open mike and camera set up in the student center are also very interesting, and show that they have been following the debate closely in some cases, particularly when it comes to the Institute. In general this is a revealing look at a campus full of thoughtful people who are drawing on their expertise and integrating new knowledge and information as quickly as possible.

One thought I did have while listening to this is that the focus of the discussion on the Institute has really let the educational benefits that library supporters claim go unexamined. In some cases these are clearly exaggerated — in January’s faculty meeting, for example, one faculty member stated that this would be “one of the great libraries of the world.” That comment reveals a basic ignorance of what reseach libraries are, and a troubling naivete about the state of SMU’s library system, which is not funded at anywhere near the level necessary for a nationally prominent university. Our DeGolyer library, for example, has leading collections relating to the U.S. West. A generation ago it made as many acquisitions as leading libraries in the field at places like Berkeley and Yale. But over the years the central administration has chipped away at its funding, siphoning the yields from the endowment that came with it to support staff positions. Now it is no longer in the vanguard. This is the kind of resource that makes for an excellent university, and if it and other similar endeavors continue to be neglected, SMU won’t better itself, library or not.

Click here to listen.

Student letters in the Daily Campus

February 17, 2007

Andy Hemming, student and head of the SMU Chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas, has raised the complaint that “[t]he student body as a whole feels ignored; the faculty is going off on their own.” While his own arguments have indeed achieved wide circulation — in a nationally distributed AP report, other media interviews, and on this blog — I do agree with my fellow student that most student voices generally have been unheard in this debate.

Of course, the faculty have their own concerns that may or may not overlap with those of students and alumni. I’m not sure why Mr. Hemming feels the need to attack the faculty for its attempt to pursue its legitimate objections, while he has made no public criticism of the university administration’s failure to provide any mechanism whatsoever for student and alumni input (unlike this blog and the various petitions).

Many alumni have voiced their rejection of the proposal, as documented in several places. As for the students, two recent letters to the student newspaper expressed some of their frustrations. Leah Bray asks, “We didn’t get an assembly to voice our concerns or comments, and there was no suggestion box placed at the Hughes-Trigg Student Center for students to use. So where were we when all the decisions were made?” Another student, Bill Meehan, makes a related point in an opinion piece, “A simple vote could put the library debate to rest.”

Faculty Senate Presses SMU President on Executive Order

February 15, 2007

Today the Associated Press has a helpful report by Angela Brown on the February 14 Faculty Senate meeting. The Senate voted to endorse the SMU historians’ statement on Executive Order 13233, and added to that statement a request that SMU president R. Gerald Turner ask President Bush to rescind the order. In another measure, it also asked for responses from Turner and the board to a series of concerns focusing on the Bush Institute and joint (or, in the new politically correct terminology, “concurrent”) appointments.

This AP report raises two interesting issues. The first is how President Turner will respond to the request re Executive Order 13233. As the report says,

Brad Cheves, SMU’s vice president for external affairs and development, said Turner would consider the resolutions carefully. Cheves said he did not know if Turner would ask Bush to rescind the order because the SMU president has not yet seen the resolution.

I’m betting that Turner won’t ask Bush to revoke the order, though maybe I understimate him. If he doesn’t, or doesn’t reply to the Faculty Senate, will the Senate try to press this issue?

The second issue relates to statements by Andy Hemming, head of SMU’s chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas (who wrote a guest blog several weeks ago). Hemming is ready to rumble with the faculty opponents of the Institute:

But student Andy Hemming said faculty who oppose the library project have changed their positions, first saying they oppose the library, then only the institute and now the executive order.

“The student body as a whole feels ignored; the faculty is going off on their own,” Hemming said Wednesday. “I think their (professors’) problem is with George Bush.”

(For the record, I think the Library is acceptable, the Institute as constituted is dangerous, and the executive order is is unacceptable). But more to the point, does this mean that Hemming likes the Library and Institute because he likes Bush? If so, who is being partisan here? Would he welcome the establishment of an ideologically driven think tank by advocates of affirmative action, with concurrent appointments in SMU departments, backed by tens of millions of dollars, that reports to a board of directors of Clinton family members and friends? Especially if the Clintons already had friends and family members on the SMU Board of Trustees?