SMU's Deal with Bush Library Threatens University's Academic Independence

Categories: Schutze

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You know what's wrong with the Bush Presidential Center at SMU? It's not a terrible thing or place in and of itself, yet. But what's wrong already is that it represents such a lay-down by the leadership of the university. The way the thing is set up is a betrayal of academic excellence, which depends entirely on academic independence. Its constitution is a rebuke to real rigor and research.

Who actually thinks independent academic research and independent rigor are bad? Tons of people. It's practically a reflex for them. Ask Holden Thorp, the highly respected academician now departing a five-year tenure as chancellor of the University of North Carolina with his tail tucked between his legs after being made a bit of a chump by his own out-of-control athletic department. Football idiots. They're a good example of people who hate academic excellence or just don't care. Look around. America probably has more football idiots than Episcopalians. That's a guess, by the way.

Football idiots all over America have shown time and time again that they would gladly trash their own alma mater's academic standing in order to hire a better football team. Excellence is for wimps. We want us some game!

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Bush library groundbreaking: Are they digging a foundation or burying something?
Look at the state's highest elected official, Governor Oops. Oops is carrying out a holy war against University of Texas President Bill Powers, based on Oops' determination to shut down research at UT. Who on earth would want to shut down research at the University of Texas? I just told you. Governor Oops.

Why? Oh, who knows? Some rich kid didn't get in or got in and got bounced out. Hostility to academic rigor is like murder: Rarely is there a truly rational motive. It's more an inchoate wrath welling up darkly from the emotional equivalent of the lower gastro-intestinal tract. Hostility to academic and intellectual rigor is always just there, a fact of life. That's why universities always need thick, high walls to protect against the horde.

In a story in The Dallas Morning News today, political science professor Cal Jillson laments the decision by SMU to allow the creation of a policy institute in the Bush center that stands free and independent of the faculty but is allowed to make joint appointments to the faculty: "We could have bargained harder and argued with more clarity about which principles were at stake," Jillson says.

So let's review. What if somebody came to SMU and said, "We want to create the Jim Schutze Football Idiot Institute. The JSFII will be independent of academic control, but it will joint-appoint people to the faculty who will be half-professor, half-football idiot. We will field a major football team under the name, the SMU JSFII Pony-Ups. How 'bout it?"

That's basically what SMU has done by allowing Bush to ride in and set up his autonomous out-of-office political action arm under the banner of the university. The point being: SMU didn't have to do it that way. Both Texas A&M and the University of Texas kept strong thumbs on their presidential centers by making them degree-granting departments within and under the control of their faculties, rather than allowing creation of an autonomous entity.

And what's wrong, again, with an autonomous think tank? What's wrong is that a university must shelter the academic flame from external corruption or even, remembering Governor Oops, from extinction. In a piece in The New York Times today op-ed columnist Joe Nocera talks about the penchant of hard-nosed business-world football idiots to ride roughshod over the academics once they're allowed on campus on their horsies.

Do we really believe that a bunch of conservative political hacks at Bush's self-styled "action-oriented think tank" are going to behave any better after the nicey-nice wears off? They will behave as badly as they are allowed to behave, and SMU has given them a whole lot of permission.

The advocates for the Bush library within the SMU administration, mainly President Gerald Turner, have argued from the beginning that the Bush library will bring fame and luster to the university. But in the longer run the structure they have put in place will do just the opposite. It will make SMU look like a lay-down for The Money.


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30 comments
ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Bush and think tank in the same sentence. And it only took 4 trillion dollars wasted, 5000 dead in phony war, nation's rep trashed, financial collapse. But at least Halliburton made money.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Just give it some time - like the LBJ library, 99% of the population will soon not even know it exists and SMU will forever be looking for funds to keep it going.

Americano
Americano

I guess we should just tear the thing down since Jim doesn't like it.  Where could we put it that would be acceptable to the left?  Clinton got one and he sold missile technology to the Chinese.  BTW, if we ever get in a shooting war with them, thank Bill when their missiles are incredibly accurate.  Every President gets one now, even though half the country hates him.  Deal with it.

Rooster0620
Rooster0620

Ok...so it appears you and the rest of the Observer staff...for whatever reason...have a real hard-on for the Bush Library...but you realize SMU isn't exactly a world renowned research institution?

This is the academic/research equivalent of attempting to whiz into a hurricane.

Try not to lose much sleep over it, Jim.

On a semi-related note, after reading several articles over the last few months from you and your Observer brethren, it is kind if amazing how little all of you have researched the hometown university you all seem to love bashing.

Since it would appear researching the subjects you write about isn't exactly the Observer's strongpoint, I'm happy to help you out. Here's a homework assignment...how many political science graduate degree programs are there at SMU?

The answer would be exactly zero.

BobLoblaw
BobLoblaw

Next time someone says something really paranoid about Obama, will you try to remember that you wrote this article about Bush?

gm0622
gm0622

OK,

So SMU took its' normal stance.

Face in the grass, rump in the air.

Surprised?

roo_ster
roo_ster

At least GWB didn't build a mobile home that juts out into the river, like Bill Clinton did in Little Rock.



James080
James080 topcommenter

First....it's SMU. It's not an academically recognized university, not even regionally. Having the library at SMU is a very good thing.

Second, Jim, you misrepresented the article you cited. According to the article, the SMU faculty's approval  will be required for joint appointment to the institute and the school. That means that SMU's facility must approve appointments of SMU personnel to the institute (joint appointments). There is no suggestion of the institute having any input or authority to approve hiring of staff or faculty by SMU.

"A lease agreement also helped define the Bush Center-SMU relationship, such as requiring that faculty approve joint appointments with the school and institute. Three Bush Institute fellows have concurrent appointments at SMU."

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

What independent thought really goes on at any level anymore?  Unless a study is privately funded by someone who either 100% altruistically wants to get at the truth of a matter or by someone who 100% doesn't give crap how a study unfolds, independent thought is beholden to the money behind the grants.  Liberal institutions fall into the same money trap as conservative ones.  Democratic Presidential Libraries are just as full of crap and self-service as Republican Presidential Libraries.  You can't count on the media to really expose the dearth of academic independence, the media is complicit in the demise of free thinking.  Their reporting, as you see here, is going to reflect which side of the political/financial spectrum holds their thinking captive.

tb00
tb00

I suspect I'm missing Schutze's larger point. But I can't quit trying to guess how many football idiots are ALSO Episcopalians.

SandraFluke
SandraFluke

As long as I get my free birth control pills what difference does it make?

bealotcoolerifyoudid
bealotcoolerifyoudid

"It will make SMU look like a lay-down for The Money" 

I thought SMU was made by The Money for The Money and that's the way they like it.  And no that is not a criticism by me. 

Rix1
Rix1

Doesn't all this apply to UT and the LBJ library? Or, GHWB at Aggie-land? These are autobiographies in stone and steel, not academic houses of objective thought. (As if there are many of those in this day and age of PC). SMU is as good a place as any for the Bush Library. Give the anti-Bush vitriol a rest.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@roo_ster G Dub obviously built to complement the existing architecture (maybe?) of the area.  Obviously, Clinton did the same when building in Little Rock.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@James080 

my piece says twice that these are joint appointments. That still makes the people who get their joints appointed by this half-assed process half professor half football idiot.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@James080 SMU is ranked #58 among National Universities by US News.  I would consider that "academically recognized".

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@Rix1 

Please re-read again if you have time. No, it does not apply to UT or A&M. They kept their presidential temples under academic control. SMU did not. 

Rix1
Rix1

@JimSX @Rix1 The Bush School of Government and the LBJ School of Public Affairs are separate functions of the ex-prez Foundations, as are the library's. In this case, GWB's foundation decided not to go that route. So what. 

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @James080 

not trying to defend or put down SMU, but the US News rankings are bs. no one should place any credibility in those rankings.

Rix1
Rix1

@JimSX @Rix1 @Montemalone I appreciate your lib lords letting me have some cake. I assume you'll be licking the bowl, since it's the best part?

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