The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
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It’s the institute, stupid

There is a contentious back-and-forth going on via e-mail among some SMU faculty regarding the Bush Institute.

The majority of faculty members, if not all, have finally accepted the Library as a fait accompli. Indeed, for the majority of faculty, the library is no longer the primary concern. To paraphrase James Carville, it’s the institute, stupid.

Not so much the institute as the structure of the institute. As it stands, SMU will have zero control over Bush’s eponymously oxymoronic think tank.

Concerns ranging from the institute’s policy focus (preemptive war, denying global warming, expansion of executive powers, creation of an imperial presidency, privation of civil liberties, torture) to who will hold fellowships have many faculty rightfully concerned.

More important, the prospect that departments will be required to accept co-appointments of Institute fellows who, by virtue of their appointment to the institute, will be exempt from the normal departmental hiring practices.

In short, many faculty members are seeking assurances. So far, the administration is saying, “Trust us.” For some faculty, those two words are enough. Others have given the administration its just consideration – just about meaningless.

The bottom line is the institute, too, is a fait accompli. The trustees want it. Bush wants it. If Bush has been successful in communicating anything in the last six years, it’s that he’s the “decider.” The faculty has absolutely no bargaining power. Some have accepted that and acquiesced; others haven’t.

SMU isn’t the University of Florida, and the Bush Institute isn’t an honorary degree. The faculty can’t vote to deny W his institute the way the University of Florida Faculty Senate voted to deny brother Jeb an honorary degree.

Those who have acquiesced comfort themselves by thinking about “the potential for classroom visits and other student access to institute fellows would be a tremendous asset to our teaching, particularly in fields like political science, history and economics.”

Some have even resorted to the desperate claim that anyone who continues to express concern or offer opposition “seeks to circumvent the duly constituted authority of the Faculty Senate.”

What’s next? Accusations of unpatriotism? Of aiding and abetting terrorists?

I realize that more than a few professors in some departments are as giddy as schoolgirls about the prospect of some Republican history makers in residence at SMU.

I’m quite sure that at night some even dream of discussing Soviet-era diplomacy or listening to stories about the good old days at the Hoover Institute with Condie over coffee and doughnuts or hashing out the nuts and bolts of Mideast power-brokering with James Baker at brownbag lunches.

Perhaps by the time the institute is built, Condie’s dream of “work[ing] with our many partners around the world … [and] build[ing] and sustain[ing] democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system” will have become a reality.

Some no doubt think that having Karl Rove or Donald Rumsfeld speak to classes is a good idea. I know I would go to any length to secure a front-row seat to hear Paul Wolfowitz justify his failed pre-war assessments (just don’t ask him to take off his shoes) or listen to Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass argue that the administration’s primary mistake was planning for the wrong peace rather than the wrong war.

Indeed, our students could learn so much from anyone in the Bush cabal who has had a direct hand in formulating the myriad of failed policies that constitute the worst presidency in history.

I bet there’ll even be a position for Mary Cheney as the senior fellow for Gay and Lesbian Studies. I can’t wait to read her first white paper: “Acquiescing to Homophobia for the Good of the Party.”

Alberto Gonzalez, of course, would be senior fellow for Constitutional Law. His white paper, “How to Interpret the Constitution to Justify Whatever the Boss Wants to Do,” would be instructive for law students.

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum, now at the American Enterprise Institute, could be cajoled into giving lectures on “How to Sell the War of Your Choice” or “How to Creat Buzz Phrases that Scare like the ‘Axis of Evil’.”

Scooter Libby, no doubt, would be called upon to teach seminars on “Taking the Fall.” Harriet Miers will certainly be free to do something: bring coffee, remind the guys that they are the best. Jack Abramoff should be out of jail by then (because Bush will have pardoned him). They’ll probably want to tap him to be the institute’s lobbyist.

And they’ll need someone who works exclusively on firings; Kyle Sampson, Gonzales’s fired chief of staff who oversaw recent U.S. attorney general firings, could hold that “fellowship.”

Oklahoma Republican Senator (and global warming denier) James Inhofe and convicted Deputy Secretary of the Interior Steven Griles could duke it out to be the first ExxonMobil Distinguished Fellow of Environmental Studies.

The Distinguished Fellow of Election Fraud – uh Reform – has yet to be decided. That one will probably go to Rove. Rove, I’m sure, will hold multiple fellowships.

The list of Bushies with impressive records of disservice to our country is long and infamous. Of course, the government will probably want to open a federal prison nearby so fellows can rotate weekends while serving their sentences for corruption, perjury, obstruction of justice and treason.

What have I been thinking? Institute supporters are right. Now that I’ve thought it through, I am excited about what our students could learn from such the cast of miscreants and criminals that could grace our campus.

About the writer:

George Henson is a Spanish professor at SMU. He can be reached at [email protected].

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