Probably no other administration has been more closely identified with anti-academic positions than that of President George W. Bush. His infamous quote to KYW News Radio in 2003, “I don’t read newspapers,” angered, but did not surprise, most educators in the country. Now Bush seems determined to leave a legacy that threatens intellectual honesty, academic freedom and public access to government information. Scholastic communities are fighting mad and fighting back.
Academic freedom under attack
For months, professors, clergy and students have been vehemently protesting the selection of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, as the site for the planned Bush Presidential Library and Bush Foundation Think Tank. SMU faculty members have drafted an open letter to the president and trustees. They are collecting signatures from current and former faculty members, researchers and administrators. As of early April, they have collected 120 signatures with more being added each day.
University President Gerald Turner said Bush officials had presented the project as a “package deal.” The acquisition includes a library, museum and the “Bush Foundation Institute.”
It is the foundation piece of the project that is causing the greatest concern. According to the open letter, “Bush publicly has stated that his institute will address and promote policy initiatives begun during his White House years. Because the director of the institute would, therefore, necessarily need to hire fellows on the basis of their willingness to support a partisan research agenda, open inquiry and academic integrity could very well be compromised.”
Foundation organizers have also insisted that the partisan think-tank would be autonomous and unanswerable to the university, strengthening the opposition’s position that the institute seriously violates SMU’s academic mission.
What would Jenna want you to know?
Although the inclusion of the Bush Foundation is drawing the hottest attention on campus, professional librarians and historians are voicing loud opposition to the proposed presidential library as well. As the result of an under-reported executive order, EO 13233, issued by Bush just two months after the 9/11 attacks, presidential papers are now sealed for as long as a former president, or his or her //heirs// wish to keep them private. In other words, Jenna Bush may now legally prevent the public’s right to have open access to historical documents! The immediate effect of the order prevented the release of former president Reagan’s papers.
The National Archives and Records Association administer presidential libraries. Presumably the attraction of having a former president’s library on a university campus is the renowned, visiting researchers that depend on access to these historical documents. Executive records sealed in perpetuity violate our public’s right to a transparent and democratic government.
A bill reversing Bush’s order has passed in the house and is now being considered in the Senate. He has already announced his intention to veto the bill.
Dick Cheney – Bad role model for graduates
At what is arguably one of the most conservative if not “well-behaved” campuses in the country, Brigham Young University students in Salt Lake City are also voicing opposition to a future visit by Vice President Cheney. BYU business professor Warner Woodworth is supporting student protesters and has posted an online petition.
Cheney actually contacted the university himself requesting that he be allowed to give the 2007 commencement address on April 26. Many on campus were appalled when the BYU board of trustees accepted his offer.
Citing Cheney’s misleading statements about the war in Iraq, his use of profanity on the Senate floor, perjury scandals and awards of no-bid contracts to friends, the petition goes on to state, “Mr. Cheney is simply not the type of role model to whom we wish to bestow the responsibility of addressing our best and brightest as they “go forth to serve.”
Student activists hit the streets
In yet one more example of scholastic ire, on April 4 American University students lay in the street, in an attempt to detain presidential adviser Karl Rove. He had just finished delivering a speech to a select Republican group on campus. About 20 students had to be pulled away before his driver was able to get through the activists’ blockade.
Student protestors indicated that they were there to confront Rove and make a citizen’s arrest for his violation of the Presidential Records Act of 1978 by using an unaccountable e-mail address to conduct the nation’s business. Though there were reports of objects being thrown, no injuries or arrests were reported.
perry5 @ swbell.net
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