The controversy over the proposed George W. Bush Presidential Library at SMU (heh) has settled to a simmer for now; even The Bush Library Blog announced over the weekend it was going on summer vacation. But it's merely the quiet before the storm.
Speaking of, here's the latest black cloud to drift over the Hilltop: The Bushies have balked at the faculty’s insistence that the university control the faculty positions created in the proposed Bush think tank. Military historian Mark Moyar, who taught at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service, formed in 1997 as part of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, believes he knows a major reason behind W’s reluctance to give SMU faculty control over hiring.
In a word: liberals.
That college campuses are dominated by liberal faculty is no surprise. But Moyar’s complaint is that there doesn’t seem to be room at American universities even for “token” conservatives.
When it comes to historical research, Moya is no slouch. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard and earned a doctorate at Cambridge University. On May 12, the Houston Chronicle wrote a story quoting five scholars’ views on lessons from the Vietnam War that can be applied to the current war in Iraq. Moyar was quoted, along with Stanley Karnow, the journalist who covered the war for Time and later wrote Vietnam: A History.
Moyar’s second book on the Vietnam War was about to be published by the prestigious Cambridge University Press when Moyar learned he wouldn’t be granted tenure at Texas A&M.
On April 30, the New York Sun published a story about Moyar’s subsequent job search experiment: For five years, even after he obtained another post, Moyar submitted resumes for jobs in history departments at 150 campuses around the country -- armed with recommendation letters from distinguished professors at Harvard and Cambridge -- only to find doors slammed in his face.
Moyar attributes the response to his book Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War 1954-1965, in which he argues that the Vietnam War was winnable and a “worthy but improperly executed enterprise.” (Not only do most historians of the war disagree, one scholar called his premise “profaning one of the holy of holies.”)
Moyar says the New York Sun story didn’t touch on the reason W has balked at the faculty’s insistence on controlling who will teach in the think tank. Moyars contends that his experience at the first Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M shows that faculty are “most likely to subvert academic freedom while claiming to be its guardians.”
Texas A&M -- liberal?
“Liberal Texas A&M faculty have succeeded in dominating the library's scholarly activities, amply justifying the current President's attempts to stiff-arm the SMU faculty. Within a short time of the school's founding, university faculty took control of the faculty appointment process, and they filled the school with liberals whose aversion to the Bush name was overcome only by lucrative salaries.
“The former U.S. military and CIA officers who had been brought to the school as non-tenured lecturers were treated with contempt by the permanent faculty, who in many cases refused to speak with them. When I initially arrived, some faculty members were not aware of my political views and therefore made some unguarded comments in front of me and other faculty members. (They assumed that I, like most all academics, shared their liberal views.) For example, I heard another faculty member say that the Bush School was hurt by its name affiliation with the 41st President because people thought it was conservative, and they did not want to be known as conservative. Faculty members frequently derided both Bush Presidents, a fact that no doubt would not have gone over well with the school's founding father.
”The faculty also actively sought to prevent conservative scholars from gaining a foothold in the school, as I discovered when I arrived in 2003 as a lecturer. I came after being told that I would be a prime candidate for a tenure-track job in diplomacy and national security that would be opened the following year.”
Though he was chosen as a finalist for that job in early 2004, Moyar says several hostile faculty members declared he was an “unacceptable” candidate and shouldn’t be hired, even if the other candidates didn’t take the job. He explains:
“I soon learned of the ‘unacceptable’ votes from other faculty members who were outraged by what had happened, and I heard from certain faculty members that I had been blackballed because my research supported conservative interpretations of the Vietnam War. One public affairs faculty member informed me that another faculty member said she did not like the idea of voting for me because of ‘ideological differences.’
After I made a speech last fall as part of the Bush School Speaker Series, several faculty members said to a colleague that they were shocked to hear my conservative views and that I should have known better than to express such opinions from listening to the rest of the faculty in the lunch room.”
The dean in charge of hiring denied there was any bias. But Moyar says he obtained documents through open records requests that showed two Texas A&M professors objected to him in writing because they believed he was driven by an ideological agenda, though they offered no evidence it had colored his research or teaching.
“Nor did they explain,” Moyar writes, “why they were disqualifying me for allegedly possessing something -- an ideological agenda -- that thousands of other university professors obviously possess. An anonymous report in my application file stated that although I was a strong scholar, my presence would ‘hurt the reputation of the school,’ because the school was seeking to ‘escape a conservative partisan image.’ This concern about a person's ideological leanings and political participation, it should be noted, is usually applied only to conservatives. Academics have no problem about vocally denouncing politicians and political ideas that they dislike.”
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Well, that’s true.
Moyar now teaches at the U.S. Marine Corps University at Quantico, presumably one of the few safe havens for conservative academics in the country. The experience hasn’t hurt his publishing career. A book of essays by other scholars on Triumph Forsaken is being published, and his first book, Phoenix and the Birds of Prey: Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism in Vietnam, will be re-issued in a new edition this December. He has two other books under contract with Cambridge University Press.
Moyar says he sent a letter about his experience to President George H.W. Bush.
“I know that he read it, which may account at least partially for his son's wariness of SMU,” Moyar says. When the carrion of the Bush administration finds a resting spot, historians will strip the flesh with gusto. Maybe W just wants to guarantee a few conservative vultures are in on the feast too. --Glenna Whitley