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

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024

Methodist council approves land lease for Bush library

While students hit the slopes or laid out on the beach during Spring Break, SMU moved one step closer to finalizing a deal for the George W. Bush Library complex.

The Mission Council of the United Methodist Church’s South Central Jurisdiction approved the lease of land on campus in a 10-4 vote. There was one abstention.

The vote was held at the conclusion of a special meeting of the council last Wednesday at a hotel near Dallas Love Field.

“There are still other things that have to be worked out, but this is a major step,” SMU President R. Gerald Turner said after the meeting.

The council had to approve leasing land in use by SMU. The boundaries of the complex included campus residence halls and parking surfaces.

SMU confirmed publicly for the first time what many had already assumed the site of the complex would be: Mockingbird Lane to the south, Airline Road and Dublin Street to the west, SMU Boulevard to the north and Central Expressway to the east.

The majority of the site includes the disputed University Gardens complex, the Park Cities Plaza and Potomac Park. University Park voters must approve the sale of the strip of land in a municipal election this May.

The council heard from supporters and opponents of the lease before voting.

Turner spoke before the council, detailing the likely location.

He also answered questions from council members, with one asking him if he believed the conservative, privately owned institute would hurt SMU’s reputation – Turner responded with a no.

Another asked if Turner had attempted to disassociate the institute from the school, and if the institute had to be part of the library deal.

“It’s a package deal,” Turner said. “It’s enormously valuable.”

Theology dean Bill Lawrence spoke before the council and asked them to support SMU’s effort to land the library complex.

“This is an opportunity for a historic treasure at our university to be the repository for materials for scholarly research,” Lawrence said.

Retired professor Bill McElvaney spoke against the lease, telling the council that “future of SMU’s soul is at stake.” He said that the Bush library committee should be working to accommodate its plans within SMU’s mission, not the other way around. He also mentioned the online petition against the library that has now garnered approximately 10,500 signatures.

The council debated 40 minutes in private before returning with the results of their vote.

While the council was approving the lease of land to SMU, the U.S. House was voting on a bill that would drastically change the way the Bush library committee approached the library project.

The House voted 333-93 to overturn an executive order signed five years ago that allows ex-presidents and their immediate family to seal White House records and documents for as long as they deem necessary.

“Historians and scholars need access to presidential records so that there’s an accurate record of a president’s term in office and not an alleged version based on what the president chooses to share,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the lead sponsor of both bills.

The House also voted overwhelmingly, 390-34, to have Bush and future presidents identify donors to their library projects. The bill would require the library fundraisers to disclose four times a year donations of $200 or more. This would be mandatory for the first four years after a president leaves office.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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