University of Michigan President Lee Bollinger may be offered the top spot at Columbia University in the next few days, the Columbia Daily Spectator said Tuesday.
The Spectator quoted sources close to the Columbia search committee as saying an offer may come soon because of possible recent action by Michigan’s Board of Regents asking Bollinger to commit to Michigan.
Whenever there is a change in the leadership of other Ivy League institutions, members of the Yale community take notice. Policy changes at any one of the Ancient Eight can send ripples throughout the system.
Michigan, a public university with more than 40,000 students, is a very different venue from Columbia, a private institution with fewer than 6,000 undergraduates. Moreover, Bollinger ultimately would report to a board of trustees rather than the state of Michigan and thus have much greater flexibility.
On Tuesday, officials at both universities declined to comment on Bollinger.
“He’s a very personable person,” Michigan mathematics major Ann Johnson said. “I’d hate to see him go.”
Harvard University’s presidential search last spring brought intense media attention to Bollinger, who was one of three final candidates. Bollinger’s selection to replace Neil Rudenstine appeared likely enough that newspapers like the Boston Globe and the New York Times ran profiles on him.
But it was Lawrence H. Summers, a former U.S. treasury secretary and Harvard alumnus, who received the final nomination.
The Columbia search committee could be accelerating the process because of possible action by the University of Michigan Board of Regents. In light of the Harvard incident, the regents may ask Bollinger not to accept a position elsewhere while he is serving as Michigan’s president, the Spectator reported.
Bollinger recently took a trip to New York and on Sept. 24 unexpectedly missed a Faculty Senate meeting — possibly to meet with members of the Columbia search committee, the Michigan Daily reported. Harvard’s search progressed for eight months before any interviews took place, but Columbia’s search is only five months old, suggesting Columbia’s committee may have sped up its timetable.
Faculty and students alike have hailed Michigan’s president during his tenure in Ann Arbor. Bollinger is an outspoken proponent of Michigan’s affirmative action policies, even testifying in court in two suits brought against the school by rejected students. Besides taking firm stances on controversial issues, Bollinger is also known as a people person. He has been praised for his ability to create a sense of intimacy with his many constituents.
“He sent out an e-mail after the World Trade Center disaster,” Michigan freshman Brandon Lee said. “I felt like he was really talking to me on a personal level.”
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