Students and Alums

One student’s perspective: “What About Us?” John Jose, SMU Daily Campus, January 23, 2007

Then the student newspaper weighed in: “Speak out against the Institute,” SMU Daily Campus Editorial Board, January 26, 2007

The Student Senate voted to endorse the Bush LMI on January 30, 2007; read the full text of the Resolution here.

The Young Conservatives of Texas issued a press release about their petition drive in support of the LMI on January 31, 2007.

The Library-Museum-Institute is becoming a key issue of alumni concern (see also the “Methodist Debate” bar. Here is where alumni and students can post their concerns. The following letter, sent to me after my comments in a Dallas Morning News Story on January 17th, is typical of those who have doubts about the wisdom of the library, and particularly the institute, coming to SMU.

—————

Dear Ben,I am an alum’ of SMU, class of ’82. I came across your comments in the Dallas Morning News regarding the proposed George W. Bush library. I wanted to encourage you and the rest of the faculty to demand an open debate on affiliating our fine university with this president.

I am amazed at the current school administration’s level of secrecy and downright bullying during this process. It troubles me that the school has, it seems, already embraced some of the worst characteristics of this presidency. And that is without even having the Bush Institute “scholars” around saying that is how you best lead (maybe, in 1965, before we knew better ­ but not now).

Anyway, I have ­ in case you missed it ­ attached a recent article from the NY Times regarding the newfound power of university faculty in making university administrations less than untouchable. It would seem to me a good message to get across to your leader, Dr. Turner ­ and the Board of
Trustees.

Also, I’ve attached a copy of a letter to the editor that I recently forwarded to The Daily Campus. In it you can see my argument for why in the eyes of a branding expert (of which I am) this potential affiliation puts the SMU reputation at some risk ­ something I think the administration and the Board of Trustees are not really supposed to do.

So, please make use of your authority to question some of these decisions. And may SMU always remain the place that it is to me (and to many others): a place and a people devoted to the highest of noble principles.

Thank you,

David

David A. Cole

Another alum commented at the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s blog:

As an alumnus of SMU and an academic, I live in dread that my alma mater will grow to be thought of as the Neo-con Harvard. Dr. Freidel’s comments suggest that no institutional or academic oversight will exist to prevent an explosion of ill-considered and weak “research” promoted by partisan “experts” claiming to represent SMU publicly. I do not look forward to trying to explain the associated/not associated nature of the institute for the rest of my professional life.

— Ben Passmore Jan 26, 10:53 AM

Yet another alum commented on January 31, 2007, in a letter to the Lufkin Daily News:

I am one of those who is strongly opposed to SMU accepting the Bush II library and think-tank, and I gladly signed the petition.

I am a 1961 SMU graduate. I fear that the Bush II library and think-tank are really designed to be a post-presidential bully pulpit for the administration, and venue for repairing President Bush’s reputation. We read in the press that the Bush library committee seeks to raise a half billion dollars for the project, with the intent of restoring the President’s image.

Would legitimate scholars be able to, or want to work in such an environment? Why should we think that President Bush would be any more interested in a policy of openness in his library than he has been during his terms as governor and president?

I remember the consternation generated among scholars and others when then Governor Bush decided to transfer his papers to the Bush I Library instead of allowing them to remain with the state. Then, did not President Bush issue an executive order extending the time in which presidential papers are to remain sealed? Have we not read over and over again in the press how the Bush Administration has suppressed or twisted legitimate reports on many subjects, including global warming?

And, is not this most tragic and disastrous of wars in Iraq the result of suppression of truth?

Finally, one wonders to what extent the library and the think tank would somehow adversely influence academic freedom at SMU. No, I see no reason to believe that the Bush II library and think-tank would in any way enhance SMU’s reputation. These entities might bring in donations and maybe even academic chairs, but would all of that be ill-gotten gain in the end and constitute a disservice to the American people?

Student Letters in the Daily Campus,”  February 17, 2007.

See also comments made by students, alumni, faculty and former faculty signing the Protect SMU petition, here.

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2 Responses to Students and Alums

  1. heber4 says:

    Here’s a thoughtful letter from an SMU history alum that was copied to many members of the history department:

    President Turner:

    It’s not every day that I scan my New York Times for the latest on SMU …

    As an alumnus (’89) and a current member of the Dedman College Executive Board, I encourage your efforts to bring the George W. Bush Presidential Library to the SMU Campus. I also encourage you to educate the relevant communities (the campus community, the alumni community, the United Methodist community, etc.) about the value of a presidential library and archive as an educational and research resource, regardless of one’s views of this Administration’s policies.

    After graduating from SMU, I spent three years studying at the University of Texas, literally across the street from the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. I know first-hand the richness of such an archival resource, and I doubt that any sensible observer would conclude that the mere presence of the LBJ Library on the UT campus signifies any particular attitude toward the Johnson administration’s legacy by any member of the UT community. The same points should be true of the presence of a GWB Library on the SMU campus.

    Moreover, having been a student of a portion of SMU’s history – my History Departmental Distinction thesis focused on the 1950s controversy caused by Professor John Beaty — I know that one of SMU’s great legacies comes from the dedication of Willis Tate to a broad vision of academic freedom. Indeed, President Tate won the Meiklejohn Award from the AAUP in 1965 for his eloquent advocacy of the University as an open marketplace of ideas. For example, he staunchly defended allowing the communist editor of the Daily Worker (John Gates) to speak on campus in 1958, to much criticism in the midst of the John Birch era in Dallas. President Tate wisely insisted that the discussion of a viewpoint on a campus is not tantamount to endorsing its merit, but rather the best means of testing its merit. To you and your colleagues at the University, I commend the following statement from President Tate’s inauguration in 1955:

    “Here, then, is our challenge and our commitment: to create and maintain an atmosphere of friendly cooperation, a fellowship of growing personalities, an environment of inquiry, a colony of democratic living, and a scene for adventures of the spirit.” (Wills Tate, May 5, 1995.)

    Having said that, I understand that some critics of the library proposal are particulary concerned that fellows of a proposed institute to be associated (in some way) with the GWB Library would be misperceived as members of the University faculty, and that their output might be misperceived as reflecting academic output of the University. I believe that this concern should be taken seriously. The cited example of the Hoover Institution on the Stanford campus seems to me to be somewhat problematic; the nature of the relationship of that Institution’s fellows with Stanford University is sometimes difficult to discern. For example, Mr. Dinesh D’Souza has a considerable output of writings (some of which I find thoughtful and persuasive, some not so), but his B.A. degree would not likely qualify him for a full-fledged faculty position at either Stanford or SMU – and yet he is often identified as a “Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University,” which some may construe as indicating membership on Stanford’s faculty. Instances like that can create understandable confusion about the University in the community at large. (My point is not a partisan one; I’m sure there are comparable examples among fellows at, for instance, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.) For this reason, while I support your effort to bring the GWB Library to SMU’s campus, I urge you to give careful thought to making clear the association vel non of such an institute and the University and its faculty.

    Respectfully yours,

    Thomas (“T.L.”) Cubbage III
    SMU B.A. 1989
    Arlington, Virginia

  2. Editor says:

    While I think some of Mr. Jose’s ire in the piece, “What Abous Us?” could also be directed at the university administration, I also wonder, what sort of input do the students have into this process?

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