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


Protestors: “SMU sold its soul”

A group of anti-war protesters called “The People’s Response,” will congregate on SMU’s campus Tuesday morning to protest the groundbreaking of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

The groundbreaking, itself, will take place in a white tent in front of an invitation-only group of around 2,500 people, but The People’s Response is planning a series of elaborate protests to occur outside.

Member Hadi Jawad described The People’s Response as a “loosely knit group of activists,” whose purpose is “to mark the horrible, horrific, terrible policies that the United States has followed in the Iraq war.”

Jawad said that the group understands the former president’s right to open his library on SMU’s campus, and that they are particularly opposed to the Bush Institute, the action-oriented think tank that will be part of the Center.

“To me, it represents the discredited ideas of the neoconservatives that swarmed around President Bush’s administration,” Jawad said.

“To give them, again the chance to rehash those ideas now with the stamp of higher learning fromSMU seems to be a failure of judgment. It seems that SMU sold its soul when it accepted the Bush Institute,” Jawad said.

Patti LaSalle, associate vice president and executive director of public affairs, disagrees.

“Housing the George W. Bush Presidential Center on campus is consistent with the University’s commitment to facilitate historic research and ongoing dialogue on important national and global issues,” LaSalle said. “The fact that there is disagreement on some issues underscores the importance of these resources.”

But Jawad said that the Institute is already churning out ideas that he feels are misled. He called into question the women’s rights initiatives that the Institute is working on, particularly in the Muslim world. He wants to know if the Bush Institute will ask women from Iraq and Afghanistan how their lives have been “affected by the invasion.”

“I doubt we will see that side of the equation,” Jawad said.

In a statement to The Daily Campus, Mark Langdale, president of the George W. Bush Foundation, responded to Jawad’s statements.

“President Bush served our country with honor and integrity and kept us safe in the difficult years following the attacks of 9/11,” Langdale said. “At the Bush Institute, we focus on promoting human freedom, education reform, global health and economic growth, not responding to distortions of President Bush’s record.”

In an effort to solidify their presence on the SMU campus, The People’s Response contacted Jim Walters of the SMU Police Department. Walters instructed them that the best way to hold activities on campus was to have their group sponsored by a student organization.

The group got in contact with the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the Middle Eastern Student Association (MESA), but both declined to sponsor them.

Samaiya Mushtaq, vice president of MSA said, “We’re a religious organization, and we are under the campus ministry council. I didn’t want anyone to confuse our purpose for a political one.”

 MESA’s president, Rebin Kawani, said that he was approached to sponsor the organization through one of his professors. He had immediate hesitations, but took the idea back to his organization for a vote. It was unanimously rejected.

“We are a cultural organization, not a political one, and they are making a political statement more than anything,” Kawani said.

When The People’s Response reported back to Walters that they were unable to find sponsorship, Jawad said Walters offered his own assistance. LaSalle said that the police department worked with the organization to arrange a location for the protest.

According to Jawad, on the morning of the protest, the group will be located outside of Ford Stadium along Airline Road. At this location, they will set up hundreds of crosses, as well as boots and children’s shoes to represent those that have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The group is also staging a march on the morning of the groundbreaking. They are asking participants to meet at 9 a.m. and to wear black. They will march in silence to their location outside of Ford Stadium.

Jawad said that he hopes that their demonstrations will spark conversation on SMU’s campus.

“These should be subjects of great debate and discussion, particularly on this campus,” Jawad said. “We are hopeful that at this venerable institute of higher learning there will be questions asked about the Bush Institute.”

LaSalle agrees that open discussion is a necessary element of higher learning, but hopes that the demonstrations will be “characterized by mutual respect.”

Jawad said that the demonstrations, for the most part, will be peaceful.

“It’s a large group of people, and there is a large spectrum of opinion,” he said. Jawad also said that the large spectrum of opinions come from different methods of protesting.  Those at Ford Stadium will probably be peaceful, while those closer to the tent “will probably be a little bit more boisterous.”

Jawad said that he feels that demonstrations like these help the country to review our past mistakes in an effort to avoid them in the future.  

“President Obama talks about turning the page and not looking backward, but I am baffled by that kind of talk,” he said. “How can we move forward without understanding what we have read?”

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