Debates at Southern Methodist Persist Over Bush Library

Corrections appended

The home of the next presidential library may be on the campus of the First Lady’s alma mater and an institution in debate over budding ties to President George W. Bush.

Last month, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, was named the sole finalist by the selection committee of possible sites for the library throughout the state.

In an e-mail sent to faculty, staff and students last Friday addressing concerns regarding the Bush institute, SMU’s president, R. Gerald Turner, wrote emphatically: “To be one of only 13 such sites in the nation would place SMU at the center of scholarly interest nationally and internationally.”

Since then however, students and professors critical of Bush’s administration have questioned the university’s prospective relationship with the library. Faculty members generating partisan complaints surrounding the site of the Bush Presidential Library have raised sharp questions about the school’s identification with his presidency.

In a meeting Tuesday, faculty members complained of a lack of consultation over the emerging agreement and asked Turner about the relationship that would ensue between the library and the university.

According to a reporter from the New York Times, journalism faculty member Tony Pederson said there was a “lack of transparency from the beginning” and urged the university’s administration “to be more forthcoming with detailed information.”

In the email sent last Friday, Turner stated that the proposed Bush Institute would report to a separate Bush foundation, instead of creating a new school at SMU. The Hoover Institution, for example, reports to Stanford University. The library and a museum would be under the support of the National Archives and Records Administration.

The university’s vice president for development and external affairs, Brad Cheves, said that discussion of the construction is a very positive part of the process and one which the SMU community is very accustomed to, the Times reported.

Incorporating a third library in Texas would also present valuable opportunities for researchers, scholars, and the public to gain a better understanding of U.S. history during these presidencies.

“If SMU is chosen as the location of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, it would be part of a historic triumvirate of presidential resources in Texas, with the LBJ (Lyndon B. Johnson) Library at UT-Austin and the George H.W. Bush Library at Texas A&M,” Turner stated in his letter.

Reports speculate the site decision may be finalized later this year.

Founded in 1911 by the current-day United Methodist Church, Southern Methodist University is a private, nonsectarian institution with approximately 11,000 students. Comprised of seven degree-granting schools, SMU also consists of the Perkins School of Theology.

Correction: Thursday, January 11, 2007:

An article on Thursday, January 11, 2007, about the debate over Southern Methodist University's plans to host the George W. Bush presidential library incorrectly attributed comments from a faculty member and the university’s vice president for development and external affairs as being from interviews with The New York Times. The Christian Post confirmed with a representative from SMU's public relations department on Thursday that the comments made by journalism faculty member Tony Pederson and Brad Cheves were not from interviews with the Times but from statements reportedly made during the SMU faculty meeting on Tuesday.