Saturday, March 15, 2008


As an alumnus of Southern Methodist University, I received a letter from President Gerald R. Turner saying that he wanted me to hear directly from him that after a competition with seven other institutions, SMU had been chosen as the site of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, Museum and Institute. He wrote:
Only a handful of cities and universities host presidential libraries. For Texas to have three of them gives our state a unique triumvirate of resources for studying presidential history during pivotal times. The Presidential Center is another way in which SMU can serve our community, the nation and the world.
But will it serve the community, the nation and the world? Or will it simply continue the obfuscation, which has become the Bush administrations most distinguishing feature? (Check
here and here for my earlier posts on this controversy.)

The Chronicle of Higher Education has sponsored a
“back-of-the envelope” contest for suitable architectural designs of the new institution:
We thought that Chronicle readers would have their own ideas about how that building should be designed, and we invited people to send in designs on the backs of envelopes. About 120 people sent in sketches that were good, bad, serious, humorous, abstract, or really angry.
Go to this website, review the designs, and vote for the one you think best represents the proposed library, museum and institute. Carlson concludes:
If you felt your vote didn't count in 2000, it will certainly count here. The winning designer will get an iPod Touch. Hail to the chief.
Back to President Turner’s letter: Turner assures me that the Bush Institute will operate independently of SMU and that the relationship between the two “will not interfere with SMU’s commitment to open inquiry and academic freedom within the University.” That the presence of the institution will not be allowed to infringe on the rest of the university is, I suppose, something in which to take comfort. But with conditions that apply at no other presidential library, neither will SMU's "open inquiry" and "academic freedom" be allowed to infringe on the Bush Institute. According to Don Evans, chair of the Bush foundation, the think tank and presidential library will be a place to “celebrate this great president, celebrate his accomplishments.” It is scandalous that an institution dedicated to “higher learning” should have agreed to the terms required by the Bush Foundation.

The letter says that fund-raising for the Presidential Center will be conducted by the Bush Foundation. The estimated cost is half a billion dollars. President Turner says SMU will cooperate with that effort but the university will continue its own fundraising for the university. He concludes his letter with,
Our alumni and parents are a major source of that strength, enhancing our reputation through your daily achievements as well as support.
The reputation of the university has been sullied by the terms to house, as part of the university, the Bush Library, Museum, and Institute.

The reputation of the university has been damaged in another way, as Andrew Weaver has made clear:
The signing of a 99 year lease with the Bush foundation is contemptuous of the democratic processes of the United Methodist Church (UMC). SMU does not own the land upon which the lease is based. The UMC owns the property, and it has not been given the opportunity to decide whether it wishes to give permission to the Bush foundation to build a think tank to “celebrate the life and work of George W. Bush.”
The people who have asked for respect for due process have been shoved aside, as unfortunately has been the norm for the Bush administration, a process which the university is now perpetuating.

In a letter received Friday, March 14, 2008,
Andrew Weaver writes:

Legal advisors tell us that we must go to court to protect the property rights and voting rights of the 290 Jurisdictional Conference delegates who are the elected representatives of the property owners -- the 1.83 million UMC members of the South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ). We are reluctant to take this matter to the civil courts, but we see no alternative.

Our lawyers, mostly United Methodists, who have given us free counsel and legal research for several months, will continue their pro bono help as much as possible. However, we expect to be pitted against some of the most powerful law firms in Texas and beyond. To wage this fight we need funds.We need your help to raise $15,000. Please give as generously as you are able. If 30 of you would each contribute $500, we could begin the legal fight to defend the rights of the delegates to say "no" to Bush when the South Central Jurisdictional Conference meets in July. Without your help we will not be able to challenge in the courts this illegal and immoral act by the SMU trustees.

Contributions can be sent to Rev. Bob F. Weathers, 2420 Willing Avenue, Fort Worth, Texas 76110. Rev. Weathers is a highly regarded member of the Central Texas Conference and a former District Superintendent. Please make checks out to “Protect SMU Fund.”

Many of those who oppose the establishment of this institution at SMU are alumni who contribute generously to the university. I suspect that some of these are rethinking commitments they have made to the university and considering instead assisting in this legal defense. So be it.


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