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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What is next in the Bush library saga?

Southern Methodist University is the only university in history to receive a “death penalty” from the National Collegiate Athletics Association. In 1987 the NCAA required, among other things, that the university cancel its football season. The NCAA cited the need to “eliminate a program that was built on a legacy of wrongdoing, deceit and rule violations.” The scandal was a deep embarrassment to SMU and the United Methodist Church. The UMC bishops had to intervene to save the university and its board from total disgrace.

The scandal involved a slush fund of $61,000 distributed to 13 football players and centered around the misconduct of a group of trustees and school officials, as well as along a lack of proper oversight by the UMC. The humiliation felt by SMU and the UMC from that self-inflicted wound will pale in comparison to what will unfold if the proposed $500 million George W. Bush Institute is built to “polish his legacy.” As things stand now, neither SMU nor the United Methodist Church, which owns the school, will have any oversight in its operation.

To convince the United Methodist Church to stain its good name and allow a major university to give away its academic respectability by linking itself with a president, who much of the world views as a bully who authorized and advocated torture and international kidnapping, is one nifty trick. A trick that required SMU administration to hide its intentions from both its own faculty and from church leaders who would understand that a partisan institute lacking standard academic controls, whose mission undoubtedly will include attempts to justify crimes against humanity, would be a bad idea. To achieve these goals Bush needs powerful friends in high places and he has them in the SMU trustees.

Awash in Conflicts of Interest

The SMU Board of Trustees is a study of the appearance of conflicts of interests, at a minimum. It is dominated by individuals who have long-standing relationships with Bush, which raises serious questions about their impartiality and therefore how they fulfill their fiduciary duty to the university. At least 25 of the 41 trustees, 61 percent, have personal, financial, or political relationships with Bush, and many have been major fundraisers and contributors to his political campaigns.

For example, billionaire oilman and Halliburton board member Ray Hunt has been on the SMU board since 1976. He is a longtime financial backer and friend of Bush. He served as the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee for Bush in 2000, while his company and its employees contributed more than $1 million to Republican causes between 1995 and 2002. He gave $100,000 toward the 2001 Bush inaugural festivities and one of his corporations, Hunt Consolidated, gave another $250,000 toward the Bush 2005 presidential inaugural gala. In addition, Hunt donated a whopping $35 million toward the Bush Complex at SMU to secure additional property for the project.

In all, 22 of the trustees have donated to one or more of the Bush political campaigns or the Republican National Committee in support of Bush, including SMU President R. Gerald Turner, Board Chair Carl Sewell, Ruth Altshuler, Michael M. Boone, Bradley W. Brookshire, Donald J. Carty, Jeanne Tower Cox, Gary T. Crum, Linda Pitts Custard, Robert H. Dedman, Jr., Frank M. Dunlevy, Thomas J. Engibous, Alan D. Feld, Gerald J. Ford, James R. Gibbs, Frederick B. Hegi, Jr., Ray L. Hunt, Robert A. Leach, Jeanne L. Phillips, Caren H. Prothro, John C. Tolleson and Richard Ware. Public records show that the SMU trustees have given $2,759,000 to Republican candidates and causes, and $34,000 to Democratic candidates and causes.

First Lady Laura Bush is the only trustee who has said she will recuse herself from voting on the proposal because of a conflict of interest. Despite the fact that numerous other trustees have apparent conflicts, none have followed the first lady’s example, even after three United Methodist bishops called, in The Daily Campus, for all comprised trustees to do so.

University President R. Gerald Turner has repeatedly stated his belief that “When a president is in office, everything is political; when he leaves office, it becomes historical.” Given the extreme secrecy and nefarious behavior within this presidency, nothing could be more counter to reality. Over the remainder of Bush’s life, the horror stories about torture chambers and the international kidnapping of innocents will spill out. The full extent of the lies that were told by this administration to start a greed-based war that made many of his wealthy friends richer will be uncovered. SMU and the Bush Institute may well become the final bastion in the defense of the indefensible, and the United Methodist Church will continue to be stained by its complicity and collaboration.

About the writer:

Andrew J. Weaver, M.Th., Ph.D., is a United Methodist minister and research psychologist. He is a graduate of Perkins School of Theology at SMU and lives in New York City.

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