The University Record, March 5, 2001

Bollinger reports on student housing, Shakespeare residency

By Theresa Maddix

“I say repeatedly,” President Lee C. Bollinger reported at the Feb. 19 Senate Assembly meeting, “students at the University of Michigan love this institution. There is a kind of magic that happens to students here. It’s hard to identify why it is that students here feel so good about their institution. There are a lot of other really great institutions, too, that don’t have that level of devotion.”

Possible reasons Bollinger has considered or has had proposed to him for the “magic” for students are the great football traditions—“but not all students go to football games”; being a great university in a small town; and the traditions, history and more than 800 possible student activities.

“Whatever it is,” Bollinger said, “we don’t want to mess up this reality.” Of particular concern, he noted, is the steady increase in the cost of off-campus housing.

“We have to be worried,” Bollinger said, “about students moving farther and farther away from campus.”

Along with praising the Regents’ approval of planning the building of a new residence hall, Bollinger used his second Assembly visit this academic year to update members on the Royal Shakespeare Company residency, the impending report of the Information Revolution Commission, the affirmative action lawsuits and the general financial health of the institution.

In his overview of “what’s happening at the University,” Bollinger said that when he learned the last residence hall was built in 1968, he was shocked and “couldn’t imagine it had been that long.”

“We should make a major thrust in improving our residence hall facilities,” he continued, citing a “great deal of deferred maintenance.” The residence hall is only the first of several that will be proposed in the next five–10 years, said Bollinger.

For Bollinger, rehabilitation of existing residence facilities and providing alternative space for students during renovation are only part of the process.

“The nature of residence halls and their relationships to students have changed. Across the country, living-learning communities have taken off,” Bollinger said. While the University already has education combined with living in some residence halls, Bollinger added that he would like to see these communities expanded.

“The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) residency,” Bollinger said, “is a great thing for the University. The RSC, performing the second history cycle of Shakespeare’s history plays, will perform only at the U-M and Stratford-Upon-Avon and London, England.

“This is not simply a set of performances,” Bollinger said. “It is an engagement with the University and the community.” The residency also will include more than 75 lectures, courses and exhibits, with more than 40 of these events open to the public.

“We have a responsibility to engage with culture—to support, sustain and encourage it,” Bollinger said. The U-M–RSC partnership includes plans for return visits in 2003 and 2005.

Bollinger said he is anticipating the upcoming release of the President’s Information Revolution Commission report. The commission, chaired by Dean Stephen Director of the College of Engineering and Dean John King of the School of Information, will report on several areas.

One area the commission has been asked to address is “what we need to do to bring the University up to speed technologically,” Bollinger said, citing his desire to have the capability to bring a prominent freedom-of-speech expert to his own course on the First Amendment through real-time videoconferencing.

Other areas, Bollinger said, are “what we need to teach our students about the information revolution and new technologies” and “what our role should be in distance learning/e-education.”

Bollinger also reported the contemplation of two or three partnerships with online learning and knowledge ventures. The University already has joined “not as an investment partner, as an education partner.”

Bollinger said he is “extremely proud of the legal defense we put forward” in the Law School admissions trial and expects the decision within the next few months.

The undergraduate case, Bollinger said, “resulted in a huge victory for the University.”

Bollinger reported the University’s continued good financial health, saying he is “pleased with the relationship we now have with the state Legislature.” The return on the University’s endowment has been “nothing short of stunning.” The beginning of the fund-raising campaign raised $230 million this past year. State appropriations, Bollinger said, have allowed the University to keep tuition increases at very low levels—“a 3.3 percent four-year average increase.”

However, Bollinger noted, “The economy has changed.” While he said he remains optimistic about the endowment, he said he is concerned the state appropriation “may be quite low.” A lower appropriation may result in tuition costs “going up a few percentage points higher than we have.”