Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne donated about $3.5 million to the University of Wyoming, and in return UW named a 20,000-square-foot center in Cheney's honor. The Cheney International Center will house the university's international programs, which include the study of global economic systems, international culture and social issues, international development and global environment.
The Cheney money is also being used an as endowment for scholarships to allow UW students to study abroad.
Cheney is a graduate of the University of Wyoming. The Casper Star Tribune quotes him at the dedication of building, which took place September 10 in Laramie.
Cheney said "Our time in Laramie and at University of Wyoming, most of it right there in A&S, the examples I learned, the practices I learned here at UW, laid the foundation" for his 40-plus years of public service. He said the center "will add a significant dimension to education at UW, and we have great pride today in being here and being able to take part in this process and to be able to advance the common cause that we all share in terms of what we want to achieve with the center we are dedicating here today."
Now there's a vague statement. What is that common cause?
The dedication proceedings were interrupted by heckling from a group of about 100 protesters who objected to the name of the building because of Cheney's role in the Iraq war, and because of his support for "enhanced interrogation techniques" -- i.e., torture. The Tribune quotes an unnamed professor who said "UW students going abroad might be in danger if their presence is associated with the Cheney name."
Cheney was introduced by former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, who "heaped praise on the Cheneys and was obviously annoyed by the heckling."
Simpson said Cheney "is a patriot, and we should be proud of this man and this woman who have helped our country in every situation so that others can enjoy the freedom of expression."
"Anyone can be a bitcher," Simpson said. "It is easy to second-guess, it is easy to protest, takes no brains."
Here's some coverage from the Laramie Boomerang:
After the dedication, protester and UW student Ethan Knapp said that he thought it oxymoronic for a former vice president who supported enhanced interrogation to also support enhancing study abroad opportunities.
“It’s bass ackwards to name an international center after a guy who has terrible national policies. When his international policy was ‘We’re going to bomb you, before you can bomb us,’ that’s not really a progressive global train of thought. It just shows that you can buy your name onto anything,” Knapp said.
University of Wyoming student Alex Wardwell said she doubted that international students would feel welcome in a building named after Cheney.
“If they know what his international policies are, how welcoming is that to them? It’s an international center named after a war criminal that supported torture and it’s supposed to welcome international students. It’s hypocritical,” Wardwell said.
But UW President Tom Buchanan said the Cheney’s scholarship
endowment has already helped 135 UW students study abroad since the scholarship’s inception
in 2007. And when UW International Studies Graduate Student Jeminie Shell
spoke about listening to a group of women in Liberia sing their version of an English alphabet song while she was in the country working on water and sanitation issues, everyone listened.
“They were studying by the light of a gas-powered generator. Almost all of these women were younger than me. The majority of these women had been raped during the war and some of them had certainly been abducted by rebel groups and forced to commit atrocities that you and I could hardly begin to imagine,” Shell said. “Yet, here they were, in the middle of Liberia, desperate for an education, creating their own opportunities and full of hope.”
“The beauty of funding international study is that typically the impact goes far beyond the individual student who is funded,” Shell said. “We bring back with us rich and varied experiences that can help the learning experiences of our peers in and outside of the classroom. … I feel very lucky to be at a university that values and encourages a large worldview.”
Just makes you wonder about the people whose names grace buildings on campuses and elsewhere. And it brings up the arguments about accepting "bad money" to do "good things."