Stanley Fish on Hosting the GWB Presidential Library:
In a blog post hidden behind the TimesSelect barrier over at the N.Y. Times, Stanley Fish has an interesting post arguing that members of the SMU community should be proud to host the George W. Bush Presidential Library regardless of what they think of the current President. Here's the gist of Fish's argument:
A university is pledged to determine the truth of the texts its faculty studies. It is not pledged to confining itself to texts of whose truthfulness it is convinced. A university is pledged to the integrity of the work that goes on within its precincts. But it is not pledged to conduct that work only on persons and agenda of whose integrity it is confident. A university is pledged to respect the persons of its employees, which means that it evaluates everyone by the same set of nondiscriminatory standards. But it is not pledged to restrict the object of its academic attention to people and groups who do not discriminate. A university is pledged to use its resources – money, equipment, labor – responsibly, but neither the responsibility or irresponsibility of those entities it chooses to study is something it is pledged to consider.
Those who think that by insisting on a moral yardstick, the university protects its integrity have it all wrong; the university forsakes its integrity when it takes upon itself the task of making judgments that belong properly to the electorate and to history. A university’s obligation is to choose things worthy of study, not to study only those things it finds worthy.
College Station, Tex., the home of George H.W. Bush’s library, has become an obligatory stop on the lecture circuit. And while Dallas is no backwater, its cultural and intellectual life would surely be enriched by the presence of still another world-class attraction.