Monday, October 22, 2007

SMU Threat Remains At Liebury Site.

The Liebury is still tangled in conflict while the occupier of the White House keeps his heels firmly dug into the ground on the issue of letting the public have records that he claims as his private property. At SMU, meanwhile, professors and church officials are still trying to keep the dreaded obscenity away from their school.

The waiting game for the Bush library to be officially awarded to SMU has turned into something of a punch line for school President Gerald Turner.

"A business leader recently told me that every major deal he ever made was within two weeks of completion – five or six times," Dr. Turner told the SMU faculty in August.

Then this month, asked again when an announcement would come, he responded, tongue-in-cheek: "We're about two weeks away."

Southern Methodist University launched its campaign for the George W. Bush Presidential Library five years ago. It beat out other competitors to become the sole finalist in December. Since then, campus leaders have said they expect to hear from the White House within weeks or months or "very soon" that SMU will indeed host the library.

A lead architect has been named, and the library has even been mentioned in a recent job posting by the school. But still, no announcement.
The Faculty Senate passed a resolution this semester urging more openness on presidential records. An executive order issued by Mr. Bush in 2001 allows presidents since Ronald Reagan to protect documents from public release indefinitely.

SMU professors say the issue isn't being debated as fervently these days.

"They have pretty much stopped talking about it with a sense of resignation," history professor Kathleen Wellman said, adding that people assume "it's a done deal."

There are professors on campus who support the project, but others say they dread a library on campus for such an unpopular president whose administration has approved domestic wiretapping and imprisonment without habeas corpus rights.

Meanwhile, some Methodists are seeking to overturn a church decision that allows the library and institute to be built on SMU land. A petition has been circulated opposing the project.

"The president says this [institute] is to promote his values and his policies. ... Breaching the Geneva Convention is not a Methodist value," said the Rev. Andrew Weaver, who's led the opposition.
In College Station, neighbors took Texas A&M University to federal court in early 1996 over plans to relocate a swine farm with hundreds of pigs near their homes to make room for the elder George Bush library.

A pig farm would certainly be a more desirable facility, but the smell of cash seems to be leading SMU's president away from his school's best interests.

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