A group of Methodist clergy is trying to block Southern Methodist University from going forward with plans to establish a think tank on the Dallas campus. (Correction: my original post included the Bush presidential library and museum as targets of the opposition to the complex, which has been persistent ever since faculty members at the Perkins School of Theology at SMU went public with their protests in December 2006. The opposition no longer opposes the library and museum.) SMU leaders appear ready to move forward with the project, but an online petition at www.protectSMU.org objecting to locating the institute on campus has amassed 11,900 signatures. Organizers of the petition drive have also established a legal fund allowing donations to be used for “a professional educational and advocacy campaign opposing the Bush institute at SMU.” Quoting from the release: “The campaign will seek to raise public awareness during the next several weeks about plans to create a partisan institute having no oversight by the university and being planned under the guidance of Bush political operative Karl Rove.” The idea is to convince public opinion that the SMU-Bush linkage is injurious both to SMU and the United Methodist Church, which owns the university. Ultimately, the protesters hope to persuade the South Central Jurisdiction delegates to reject the proposal for SMU/Bush Foundation lease at a meeting at the Hilton Anatole Hotel, July 15-19. Our goal is to persuade South Central Jurisdiction delegates to reject the SMU/Bush foundation lease proposal when they meet in Dallas at the Hilton Anatole Hotel, July 15-19. We will also seek to convince the “court of public opinion” through the media that the SMU-Bush linkage is injurious to both SMU and the United Methodist Church (UMC) that owns the university. The protesters conclude by saying, “We need to tell officials of the UMC at every level that we find that a partisan institute honoring George W. Bush at SMU to be “utterly unacceptable.'” SMU faces a couple of issues in dealing with the Bushes. One is that some professors will likely hold joint appointments at the university and the Bush Institute. How can the university assure that the work of its faculty at the institute will be up to scholarly standards? There will have to be provisions for peer review. The other issue is governance–whether SMU will have any say over the institute that is located on its campus. The last word that I got from university officials was that SMU was asking for representation on the Bush Foundation board.
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