Objections to Bush library mount at Texas university

Published: Monday December 18, 2006
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As planners moved closer on deciding where in Texas to site President George W. Bush's library, members of the community at one candidate university expressed objections about the establishment of the facility at their school.

Southern Methodist University is one of the three schools that may play host to the presidential library of George W. Bush, along with the University of Dallas and Baylor University.

The blog of Paul Burka, the senior executive editor of the magazine Texas Monthly, includes excerpts of a letter written to SMU's president by faculty, administrators, and staff of the university's Perkins School of Theology, worrying about siting the library at the university. In it, they say they would:

...regret to see SMU enshrine attitudes and actions widely deemed as ethically egregious: degradation of habeas corpus, outright denial of global warming, flagrant disregard for international treaties, alienation of long-term U.S. allies, environmental predation, shameful disrespect for gay persons and their rights, a pre-emptive war based on false and misleading premises, and a host of other erosions of respect for the global human community and for this good Earth on which our flourishing depends.

An article following up on the story, written by Scott Jaschik and published in the journal Inside Higher Ed, notes that SMU is considered the frontrunner among the three schools hoping to host the library. It also reports that the organizers of the letter and the critics of the library have been trying to make the debate on the library focus on academic standards instead of Bush bashing.

According to the article, Susanne Johnson, an associate professor of Christian education, said she "would understand the value of an archive of the Bush administration, and sees how many SMU scholars would benefit from having such a collection on campus. But she said that the campus has been left 'uninformed and naive' about President Bush’s plans to create a policy center to promote his view of the world."

Jaschik's article further explains that if the Bush library is sited at SMU, two graduates of the school have stated their plans to lobby to have "Methodist" removed from the university's name.

Paul Burka's blog can be accessed at the Texas Monthly website. The Inside Higher Ed article can be read in full at this link. An excerpt is provided below.


Some faculty members are not happy generally to be associated with the library of a president who — his librarian wife notwithstanding — isn’t seen as a big fan of intellectual life. When the reported price tag of $500 million for the library was publicized last month, professors didn’t like their institution being linked to the jokes being told. (Conan O’Brien: “President Bush is putting together his presidential library and apparently the library is going to cost $500 million, which will work out to $200 million a book.")

Johnson said that there are also real problems with the message the library could send. SMU historically has had a reputation for attracting wealthy students — a reputation that the university has tried to fight in recent years by offering generous scholarship to low-income students. “I think it might be a setback in terms of trying to attract a different constituency among students,” Johnson said. “Children of wealthy, leading Republicans in this state come to SMU, and then they are groomed here to become Republican leaders in all sectors of society. We shouldn’t be in the business of just replicating Republicans.”

Brad Cheves, vice president for external relations at SMU, said Sunday evening that officials couldn’t comment on the faculty letter, when it hasn’t been delivered and it is unclear how many people have signed. Likewise, he said he couldn’t comment on the Daily News article because the university was communicating on library matters strictly with the selection committee working with President Bush.

However, Cheves stressed that “SMU has and continues to celebrate a diversity of thought.”