SMU gets haunted W library

bushesAnd the W library winner is? Rich Texans in the country clubs. There is celebration behind closed faculty-lounge doors in Waco and dignified mourning in elite academic corners of Dallas, because the George W. Bush library is headed to that magical enclave of wealth near downtown Dallas known as Southern Methodist University. SMU is, of course, the alma mater of Laura Bush (see photo of her promenade) and now SMU has his library. It's a fitting match and I think David Kuo would agree (that's a hint about the religion ghost in this story).

As you would expect, the Dallas Morning News had the most wide-ranging story on this subject and it mentioned the tensions between the Bush world and the world of the SMU inteligencia. Here is the a key part of the piece:

For SMU, the prize immediately raises the school's prestige and national stature, even as some Methodists, alumni and faculty members have criticized the university's pursuit -- primarily out of concern about the potential for a partisan institute on campus.

Dr. Turner assured that academic freedom will be maintained. "If on any occasion it falls short of that, I trust our faculty to point that out," he said. ...

The policy center will be independent from the university, governed by a board of directors elected annually that includes university representation.

This controversy had spread over into United Methodist circles, which is fitting since Bush is a United Methodist -- yet has clashed frequently with the religious left, which would include the national United Methodist establishment. Meanwhile, Bush has been a hero for many people on the religious right.

But is that tension part of the library story and, if so, what does it mean about the Bush legacy that SMU won? There is only one small hint and, frankly, the Dallas Morning News does not want to go there (or so it seems to me).

ph smu dallasPay close attention here:

The flirtation began just months after President Bush took office, when Dallas oilman Ray Hunt visited the White House and made a first pitch for the library after a private dinner. Months later, Mr. Hunt and Dr. Turner met at the president's Crawford ranch to play up SMU's advantages.

In 2005, a library selection committee invited SMU and other schools to submit bids. More than a year later, SMU was chosen over two other finalists -- Baylor University and the University of Dallas -- and the school had been in exclusive negotiations ever since.

Now, try to forget all that Dallas money for a minute. What does SMU represent, symbolically speaking? What does Baylor University represent, to outsiders? What does the University of Dallas represent?

Interesting.

Meanwhile, the Waco Tribune-Herald ended a short report on the announcement with the following limerick from a Baylor librarian:

I know it filled you with trauma, If you followed the daily drama, Try not to be callous, George's papers in Dallas, Next time we'll try for Obama.

And all the elites said, "Amen."

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