University Holds Meeting on Bush Library
Thursday, January 25, 2007
DALLAS, Jan. 24 -- Members of the Southern Methodist University faculty again raised concerns that the building of the George W. Bush presidential library on campus might damage the school's reputation, said a participant at a closed-door meeting on Wednesday.
At the tightly guarded meeting, several members of the faculty questioned school president R. Gerald Turner about the political institute that will accompany the library. The institute will conduct research on issues that will be determined by Bush. Many of the questioners wondered whether such a powerful institution on campus will influence the type of research that can be conducted by SMU faculty and whether it will have an impact on the university's reputation.
"We're worried about a group of people on campus with a lot of money and a lot of power who aren't concerned for our values as an academy," Dennis Foster, a professor of English and a faculty senate member said, according to a participant in the meeting who asked not to be identified.
Turner responded by saying that because the institute will be governed by a separate board, any controversy would not reflect poorly on the university.
"The tail will not wag the dog," he said, according to the participant.
No official action was taken during the meeting. Faculty members will relay any further concerns to the faculty senate, which will then summarize them and present a list to Turner. Turner said after the meeting that he will take the concerns into advisement as he goes into negotiations with the president's site-selection committee in the coming weeks.
"I think the faculty is working its way toward a consensus on this," said James F. Hollifield, the director of the Tower Center for Political Studies on campus. He said that the main thing for many faculty members was just "getting their questions answered."
In reality, the faculty can do little to stop the library because several university leaders, including Turner, are committed to bringing it to SMU.
SMU, the alma mater of Laura Bush, was named the sole finalist for the library in December. The site selection committee -- which includes Bush's former chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., and former commerce secretary Donald L. Evans -- requested that any proposals for the library include plans for a public policy institute. In the meeting Wednesday, many faculty members expressed concerns that the Bush institute would become nothing more than a conservative think tank working to advance the ideologies and policies of the Bush administration.
The controversy began in November when two faculty members wrote in the school newspaper criticizing the absence of university-wide discussion about the library. The editorial also questioned the ethics of pursuing a presidential library "regardless of an administration's record and its consequences," a reference to the war in Iraq.