Southern Methodist University President Responds to Bush Library Concerns

Mindful of reports that President Bush wants a conservative think tank with his presidential library, Southern Methodist University's top official is trying to allay concerns that pro-Bush politics might spread through campus.

Last month, SMU was named the sole finalist by the selection committee exploring possible sites for the library throughout the state.

But since then, students and professors critical of Bush's administration have questioned the university's prospective relationship with the library.

In an e-mail sent to faculty, staff and students Friday, SMU President Gerald Turner wrote that the library's public policy institute would report to a separate foundation and not the university.

Turner wrote that the relationship would be unlike the conservative-leaning Hoover Institution at Stanford University, which reports to the school. He also noted that scholars and visiting professors shared among the library and SMU would be appointed through the university's standard hiring procedures.

William McElvaney, an SMU professor who wrote an opinion column in the campus paper that was skeptical of the library, said he still had questions after reading Turner's letter.

"I'd like to hear more about how the Bush institute that would report to the Bush foundation," McElvaney said. "What might that be about, and will that be beyond SMU's control?"

McElvaney also wondered whether the library would respect United Methodist social principles, which he said are contrary to the Iraq war and what he called the Bush administration's authorization of torture.

The library selection committee named SMU the sole finalist Dec. 21 from a field that included Baylor University in Waco and the University of Dallas.

In a letter to site contenders in 2005, the committee wrote that the Bush library would include a public policy institute to further goals that include "compassionate conservatism, the spread of freedom and democracy throughout the world, and defeating terrorism."

The letter also noted the institute would be separately managed by the Bush foundation.

SMU student body president Taylor Russ said he doesn't see the library as a promotion of Bush politics.

"It has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats," he said. "It about history; it's about our country."