SMU chief addresses faculty's Bush library concerns

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Southern Methodist University's president told about 175 professors Wednesday that any agreement to put the Bush presidential library, museum and a policy institute on the campus will preserve SMU's academic values and ethics.

"I assure you that any real or perceived fears or concerns about the institute or any part of the library in some way inhibiting this university's practice of academic freedom and diversity of opinion and practices are unfounded," SMU President Gerald Turner said....

A committee appointed to select a library site wants any institute to be separately run by a private foundation, Dr. Turner said. And he said the university would have control over any joint appointments between the institute and SMU.

"It's clear this institute will deal with the topics of interest to the president and certainly emphasize points of view compatible with his own focus," Dr. Turner said, adding that he considers that a reasonable expectation.

And he said it makes sense for that institute to be separate from SMU....

he meeting also included some sharp words from Rhonda Blair, president of the faculty senate. Some professors have said they wanted more debate on the library, but Dr. Blair said faculty have had the past six years to voice concerns, because SMU has pursued the library that long.

Dr. Blair said she questions the timing of recent concerns raised by faculty, "and what seems to be playing to the press at the 11th hour. ... There was no reason to wait this late to consider these matters more fully as a faculty, particularly if there were ethical concerns."

Interim Provost Tom Tunks said that as SMU's chief academic officer, he wanted to go on record that he strongly supports the university's bid to host the library. "In my view, the academic benefits would be immeasurable, and for us to lose this opportunity would be tragic. Furthermore, for us to allow that to happen or, worse, to cause that to happen, would be foolish."

Some professors at the meeting said they took offense at remarks by both.

History professor Alexis McCrossen said, "I'm appalled at [Dr. Blair] chastising us. ... She tried to make it sound as though this is all partisan, and the fact of the matter is it's not."

Another history professor, Ben Johnson, said he found some of Dr. Blair's and Dr. Tunks' remarks "to be incredibly intimidating."...

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