The University Record, October 30, 2000

Bollinger reviews past year, looks at U’s connectivity

By Theresa Maddix

President Lee C. Bollinger
President Lee C. Bollinger gave a brief address at the Oct. 23 Senate Assembly meeting, touching on topics of interest to the University community and concluding with what he called a “more philosophical quest”—the theme of connectivity for the University.

Relations with the state, Bollinger said, have improved significantly—“a result of very hard work by many people”—from the cool relations when he first became president. To the state, Bollinger said, it is important that the University recognize that it is first a public institution. “We must never forget that. It is natural—and proper—for faculty to think on national or even international terms, but in this thinking, we must remain firmly grounded in the state.”

The University received a 5.7 percent appropriation from the state this year that allowed a modest 2.8 percent tuition increase. Strong state support enabled the University to hold tuition increases to an average 3.3 percent over the past four years, “the lowest tuition increase over a four-year period in decades.”

In seeking research awards this past year, Bollinger said, “Our faculty have performed stunningly,” as evidenced by the $200 million increase in a single year to $650 million in total research funding.

Private giving for the past year, at $230 million, also was heartening for Bollinger, especially as the University gears up for another large fundraising effort. Bollinger said work is being done “to build a nucleus fund and organizational structure for another campaign.” In this preparatory stage, over the past two years, 15–16 gifts of $5 million or more have been promised. During the seven-year period of the previous campaign, Bollinger said, there were 25 or 26 gifts of $5 million or more.

The investment portfolio, Bollinger said, increased 43 percent over the past year, and the Health System remained in the black—“more or less even with healthy reserves.” Health systems at some other universities dipped heavily into the red this past year.

Bollinger then turned to “areas we’re really trying to improve,” saying the University “should always have things coming along to try and work on.”

Noting the recent appointment of Jack Dixon and Scott Emr as co-directors of the Life Sciences Institute, Bollinger said a key factor in bringing them together in such a leadership role was their personalities. “They both wanted to do this, to work with each other.” The arrangement also makes it possible for them to continue to conduct research.

Bollinger also spoke of a decade-long plan, beginning with serious discussion this year, about new residence halls and living arrangements for students. A new facility has not been built since 1968, even though the student body has increased significantly since then. Space is not the only issue, Bollinger said. “We need to decide what kind of life we want students to have—what is the academic character of their living arrangements.” Bollinger is concerned that upper-level students are being forced, by the cost of off-campus housing, to move farther and farther away from the central University community. Having these students closer would help undergraduates find mentors and “would contribute to the academic vitality of the campus.”

Chaired by John King, dean and professor of information, School of Information, and Stephen Director, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of the College of Engineering and professor of electrical engineering and computer science, the President’s Commission on the Information Revolution Commission continues to examine such issues as how the U-M should organize itself academically around the information revolution, how and what to be teaching about it, and what and how it participates in online education, Bollinger said. “There’s going to be a revolution in the way people learn. We have to be a part of it. We have to be in the experience. We have to be with great partners. We have to be sure we’re protecting our academic integrity. We can control that. We have to have a means to get out if we find out this is not working well,” he added.

The University also is considering joining Unext.com, which has partnerships with Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Columbia University, the London School of Economics and Carnegie Mellon University. Business courses are being developed by Unext.com with the possibility of adding courses in the sciences, humanities and other fields. “All the conditions for our participation, I think are there.”

Joining such an organization raises the issue of “conflict of commitment for the faculty,” Bollinger noted. “We have a policy that says you cannot as a faculty member engage in an activity that will conflict with your commitment to the University of Michigan. We do not allow you to join another University in a tenure-track position or any position because it is a conflict of commitment to us.” Consulting is permitted, but problems arise when considering the online world. Some businesses are asking faculty members to be a part of their organization, asking to list them as a faculty member. “That should not be permitted, in my view,” Bollinger said, because it’s a similar conflict of commitment and because it will jeopardize partnerships such as Unext.com.

The amicus briefs filed in support of the University’s admissions policies are “wonderful developments,” Bollinger said. “I’m now trying to work with the military because if Bakke is overturned,” he noted, “the military will not be able to use race as a factor in admissions in their academies. The military needs an integrated officer corps in order to run an effective military. Michigan is not unique in this. To have Bakke overturned would set back our society greatly.”

Concluding, he turned to the theme of connectivity, asking, “How do we engage with the outside world? We’re not walled up from the outside world. On the other hand, we are distinct.” Bollinger said he thinks the difference lies in “the character of intellect, the openness, the refusal to get into a particular way of thinking about the world.”

Bollinger asked, as a practical question, “What about commercial influence?” Law schools have remained isolated from commerce while science professions are very involved with business.

“Another piece is our patronage of the creative arts. We are becoming increasingly patrons of the artistic world.”

“What is our role in the education of the world? Online education is pushing us into a world where we have not been before. How are we going to think about that? What is it about education, where do we draw the limits in what is part of our mission to teach?”