The Bush Award at the University of Denver – Many Korbel Faculty Oppose; National Media Attention
Note: Reproduced here is an open letter to the administration of the University of Denver from the faculty of the Korbel School of International Studies. As can be noted, it is dated July 5, 2013, some two months ago. It was signed by some 24 full time faculty members, most tenured faculty, some lecturers. To my knowledge, it was never formally answered.
Two days from today, on Monday, September 9, 2013, George W. Bush will indeed speak at the annual Korbel dinner and receive some kind of award there. While there was never any question among the signers of denying Bush an opportunity to speak, the fact that he would receive an award, given the wars he unleashed against the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq in violation of international law, his support and that of his administration, for torture, was openly opposed by much of the Korbel faculty.
To: Chancellor Robert Coombe, Provost Gregg Kvistad, and Dean Christopher Hill
Re: Award to President George W. Bush
Date: July 5, 2013
We, all faculty members at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, have recently learned from the Korbel School’s website, from a memo of July 2nd from Dean Hill and from a petition organized by students and alumni of the school with over 1000 signatures (http://www.change.org/petitions/dean-christopher-hill-josef-korbel-school-of-international-studies-rescind-george-w-bush-s-improving-the-human-condition-award) that former US President George W. Bush is to be honored with an award at the Korbel School’s annual Korbel Dinner in September 2013. According to the website, an award is to be given in the name of the Korbel School and the University of Denver.
When we first learned of the award to the former President, “for improving the human condition,” we were shocked, disappointed, and embarrassed in light of his administration’s decisions to repudiate the US’ responsibilities as a signatory of the UN’s Convention against Torture by authorizing the use of waterboarding of prisoners. President Bush’s culpability is a matter of public evidence and personal admission. Indeed, President Bush affirms waterboarding in an interview with Matt Lauer which can be heard here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjUasA6xeVc. The relevant international treaty obligations and obligations under American law are indicated at the bottom of this letter.
We are extremely proud as faculty members that the Korbel School has long been recognized globally for its leadership in the area of international human rights theory and practice and human development; that the Korbel School has long aimed to nurture students who are “practical idealists”; that the Korbel School has a long and fruitful relationship with the Peace Corps, an institution to which so many of our students and our Dean remain deeply connected; and that the University of Denver is an institution that is explicitly dedicated to promoting “the public good” and ethical behavior.
We are also extremely proud to be associated with a school that builds on and honors the legacy of our founding Dean, Josef Korbel, for whom the school is named. Indeed, our grave disappointment and shock at the recent announcement to grant an award to former President Bush stem precisely from our deep commitment to the school’s remarkable history, and from our recognition of the loyalty and pride of our students and alumni in a school that has such profound effects on their lives.
While we applaud your decision to reconsider the nature of the award, eliminating reference to “improving the human condition,” we urge you to refrain from associating any award with President Bush’s speech at the Korbel dinner. There are many courageous individuals and organizations that deserve an award from the Josef Korbel School and the University of Denver. The former President is not one of them. We prize—as we know the DU and Korbel administrations do as well—the values of academic freedom and open debate, and we embrace fully the role of our university as a modern-day agora in which diverse viewpoints are aired and debated.
For that reason, we hope not to be misunderstood: the issue we raise is with bestowing an award in the name of the University and the Korbel School and not with the former President’s role as a speaker at the Korbel Dinner. And while it is perhaps inevitable that some will interpret this letter as a protest, our primary objective is to convey to you our deep concern so that you may consider our views on this matter as you make your decisions.
The United Nations Convention against Torture
The United Nations Convention against Torture was signed by President Reagan in 1988 and ratified by Congress in 1994. The relevant articles are:
Art 2, Sec. 2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability, or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
Art. 4, sec 1. Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.
(Consequently, the U.S. enacted 18 U.S.C. §§ 2340 and 2340A, which prohibit torture ordered by officials or carried out by employees of the US government occurring outside the United States)
Art 7, sec. 1. The State Party in the territory under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed any offense referred to in article 4 is found, shall in the cases contemplated in article 5, if it does not extradite him, submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.
Art 7, sec 2. These authorities shall take their decision in the same manner as in the case of any ordinary offense of a serious nature under the law of that State.
Here is a sampling of the media attention two days prior to the Korbel dinner.
Time Magazine ”Students, Faculty To Protest Bush Award in Denver” (picked up from the AP). The same AP article was picked up by ABC News, FOX News in Dallas-Ft. Worth, The Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana), Huffington Post,
Korbel Faculty Letter Protests Bush Award in Protest of granting Bush an award