Southern Methodist U. Chosen As Site For George W. Bush Presidential Center

This story was written by Gloria Kwong, Daily Texan
Southern Methodist University's board of trustees and the George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation Board voted unanimously Friday to establish the university as the site of a three-part center that will contain documents and artifacts from the Bush administration. The center will also include an independent public policy institute.

After years of negotiations and consideration, SMU in Dallas was chosen as the site for the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which will include a library, museum and institute.

"It's a great honor for SMU to be chosen as the site of this tremendous resource for historical research, dialogue and public programs," SMU President Gerald Turner said in a statement. "At SMU, these resources will benefit from proximity to our strong academic programs, a tradition of open dialogue, experience hosting world leaders and a central location in a global American city."

The library is expected to cost more than $200 million and will be financed by private donations. An official opening date has not been set.

The announcement was met with concern by those who have opposed the establishment of a policy center affiliated with President Bush, based on the belief that partisan politics are not appropriate for an academic center.

"The Bush library foundation is a partisan policy center, and it will promote several policy programs initiated by President Bush during the White House," said SMU associate theology professor Susanne Johnson. "Historically, there may be regret in the academic world that SMU opened a can of worms in allowing a partisan institute to open on an academic ground."

Johnson and theology professor emeritus Bill McElvaney wrote an opinion piece in 2006 speaking out against a think tank that would further the views of the current administration and have no "chain of accountability with SMU," Johnson said.

The SMU student body is looking forward to the library and the opportunity for students to engage with and learn from political experts and world leaders, said student body president Katherine Tullos in an e-mail.

"As students, we are very excited about the potential that the Bush library will bring to the SMU community," Tullos said.

Tullos said she is especially excited about the board's decision.

"As a political science major, I am proud that my university concerns itself with political issues that are facing our globe today," she said. "This library will positively impact the SMU campus in numerous ways."

The presidential center will be located on the east side of the main SMU campus, but the exact location and dimensions have not yet been determined, according to the university's public affairs office.

The location was a controversial issue that led to a lawsuit in which former University Gardens condominium owner Gary Vodicka accused SMU of buying the apartment complex in an attempt to demolish it to make room for the presidential center.

SMU was among several universities competing for the center, including Baylor University and the University of Dallas. The site selection committee announced in December 2006 that it would focus on SMU as the potential site. First lady Laura Bush graduated from the private university in 1968 and serves on its board of trustees.

Additional reporting by Amanda DeBard.
© 2008 Daily Texan via U-WIRE