Plans for Bush library stir Texas-size tempest

April 7, 2007

A thoughtful piece by the Tribune’s White House correspondent, who captures the debates within the faculty and Methodist Church as well as offering a glimpse of how some outside experts perceive the Bush complex.

Plans for Bush library stir Texas-size tempest
Mark Silva
The Chicago Tribune
April 8, 2007

DALLAS — For Southern Methodist University, the alma mater of First Lady Laura Bush and a proud, nearly century-old institution, the prospect of housing the George W. Bush Presidential Library would seemingly be an honor.

Yet the possible advent of the Bush library — and especially an ideological think tank planned as part of it — has split the SMU faculty, feeding a debate that simmers beneath the serenity of the leafy campus. At an institution dedicated to scholarly achievement and academic freedom, many fear the work of the Bush Institute would forever associate SMU with a right-wing political agenda.

Continued here.

See also the discussion at the Chicago Tribune blog, here.

(Note: this post is back-dated)

SMU Daily Campus story on new anti-Bush Institute petition

April 5, 2007

Faculty members launch anti-institute petition
Sarah Scott
SMU Daily Campus
April 5, 2007

A group of SMU faculty members announced the launch of an online petition against the Bush Institute on Wednesday.

According to Perkins School of Theology professor Susanne Johnson, the open letter to SMU President R. Gerald Turner and the Board of Trustees was a collaborative effort between her and about a dozen other professors. In it, they challenge the notion that the Bush complex is an all-or-nothing deal.

“There are a good many of us faculty members who do not buy the all-or-nothing mantra,” said Johnson. “It’s evident that George Bush wants to come to SMU bad enough that, more likely than not, he’s open to negotiation.”

Continued here.

A preview of a partisan presidential think tank

March 30, 2007

A preview of a partisan presidential think tank
Andrew Weaver
SMU Daily Campus
March 30, 2007

If you want a preview of the sort of disinformation that many of us expect from the proposed Bush partisan think tank at SMU, which the president told the press he wants to call the Institute on Democracy, take a gander at the opinion piece by Mark Tooley published in The Daily Campus on March 21 titled “Bush Library controversy: Who’s really ‘disconnected'”?

Mr. Tooley was employed by the CIA before he became head of the United Methodist unit (UMAction) within the neoconservative think tank the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) in Washington, D.C. He also writes a regular column for David Horowitz’s Horowitz is known for his attacks upon academic freedom and tenure and is the author of the seedy little book, “The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.”

Continued here.

Faculty Columnist Offers Sardonic Take on Bush Institute

March 28, 2007

This from Spanish Prof. George Henson’s regular column in the Daily Campus. It starts off with a pithy description of faculty back and forth about the Institute, and then a sardonic and (to me) entertaining prophecy about the potential roster of fellows. Henson observes that “the government will probably want to open a federal prison nearby so fellows can rotate weekends while serving their sentences for corruption, perjury, obstruction of justice, and treason.” Fun, fun fun!

It’s the Institute, Stupid
George Henson
SMU Daily Campus
March 28, 2007

There is a contentious back-and-forth going on via e-mail among some SMU faculty regarding the Bush Institute.

The majority of faculty members, if not all, have finally accepted the Library as a fait accompli. Indeed, for the majority of faculty, the library is no longer the primary concern. To paraphrase James Carville, it’s the institute, stupid.

Not so much the institute as the structure of the institute. As it stands, SMU will have zero control over Bush’s eponymously oxymoronic think tank.

Concerns ranging from the institute’s policy focus (preemptive war, denying global warming, expansion of executive powers, creation of an imperial presidency, privation of civil liberties, torture) to who will hold fellowships have many faculty rightfully concerned.

More important, the prospect that departments will be required to accept co-appointments of Institute fellows who, by virtue of their appointment to the institute, will be exempt from the normal departmental hiring practices.

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.

William K. McElvaney’s Address to Mission Council

March 16, 2007

ADDRESS TO MISSION COUNCIL, South Central Jurisdiction
March 14, 2007
William K. McElvaney
Professor Emeritus
Perkins School of Theology, SMU

Most United Methodists and non-Methodists would agree that historically SMU has been a “mainstream” Methodist university without commitment to or entanglement with partisan politics beyond its control. Indeed, the high regard in which SMU is held in most places is partly due to its freedom from ideological connections and obligations.

Make no mistake . . . if the Bush policy institute were to come to SMU as now designed, that is, reporting only to the Bush Foundation, it would be unprecedented not only in SMU’s history but also in American higher education. That’s why the decision before you is one of the most far-reaching in the history of SMU. As such it would constitute a major makeover of SMU’s previously unaligned educational history and practice.

Continued here.

UMC leaders OK Bush library plan

March 16, 2007

UMC leaders OK Bush library plan
Holly K. Hacker
The Dallas Morning News
March 15, 2007

Regional leaders of the United Methodist Church gave Southern Methodist University permission Wednesday to lease part of campus for the Bush library, in a move that helps SMU secure its chances of officially landing the library complex.

The Mission Council of the UMC’s South Central Jurisdiction voted 10-4 in favor of the plan, with one abstention, at a special meeting held near Love Field that drew a mix of opponents and supporters of the Bush library and a related policy institute. SMU’s bylaws require that it get church permission to lease or sell any campus land.

For the first time, SMU officials described the overall boundaries for where the library would be located: SMU Boulevard to the north, Central Expressway to the east, Mockingbird Lane to the south and Airline Road and Dublin Street to the west.

Continued here.

From United Methodist Nexus: Another view of yesterday’s meeting

March 15, 2007

SMU Gets Go-Ahead on Bush Complex Lease
Cynthia B. Astle
March 15, 2007

Southern Methodist University was granted permission March 14 to lease campus property to the George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation for construction of a library, museum and partisan policy center.

The mission committee of the United Methodist South Central Jurisdiction, in a special meeting held in Dallas solely for this purpose, voted 10-4, with one abstention, in favor of the university’s request. Legally the eight-state jurisdiction, a regional unit of The United Methodist Church, owns most of the SMU campus. The university’s charter requires that it come before the jurisdiction whenever it proposes to sell or lease property for uses not directly related to its operation.

The vote on a resolution granting the SMU board of trustees the right to lease the proposed Bush Library site was taken during an executive session at which some 30 observers were not allowed to be present. Committee chair Jackie Blair said no roll call was taken of the vote and there was no announcement of how individual committee members voted, nor who was the single member who abstained.

Continued here.

A gulf between institutions

March 3, 2007

A gulf between institutions
Schubert Ogden, with a foreword by Susanne Johnson
SMU Daily Campus
March 2, 2007

The prospective coming of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, Museum and Institute has prompted us to carry on discourse, public and private, about the nature of liberal arts education and what it means to be a “university.”

It has been my privilege to count among my dialogue partners my esteemed and now retired colleague, Schubert M. Ogden, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Theology, and former director of the Graduate Program in Religious Studies. Inasmuch as I found his e-mail writings to be significantly insightful on key facets of the matter before us, especially the Bush Institute, I sought his permission to lift out the mid-section of one particular email, and reproduce it here in The Daily Campus under the affixed title.

Continued here.

Further Arguments Against Bush Institute Made

February 22, 2007

Today’s Daily Campus includes two pieces from different perspectives, both arguing that the Institute in particular is a danger to SMU. Retired statistician Campbell Read argues that the institute will put SMU’s science programs at risk, pointing to what he sees as a long history of Bush administration attacks against scientific findings that it finds inconvenient. SMU alum and retired Perkins theologian Bill McElvaney, a member of one of SMU’s most distinguished and storied families, mounts a vigorous defense of the protest against the Institute, arguing that it “seeks to affirm the university’s motto for the whole campus: ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.'” He takes particular umbrage that ways in which, to him, “[a]dministrative lack of openness has communicated disrespect for the university’s most valuable on-campus assets, namely, faculty, staff and students.” On the other hand, an alum writes to the editor to argue that if “this library and institute are eventually located on the SMU campus, they will do much to bring credit to SMU and the City of Dallas.”

Later today: an interesting perspective on the Library-Institute debate from outside of SMU.