The University Record, November 14, 1996
By Jared Blank
The Record spoke with Lee Bollinger last week about higher education and his love of teaching. He declined commenting on the specifics of the transition period and his role as president until he was able to discuss these issues with the Regents.
Record: Why do you want to be president in light of all of the struggles facing higher education--money issues, convincing the public of its value?
Bollinger: I believe deeply in what these institutions do. They have a unique and valuable role in American society. This is not to say that they are without flaws, but on the whole they do what they do exceedingly well. I really enjoy making the case for higher education to the external world, and it's of great importance.
Record: What are your thoughts on the search process? Was there a chilling effect for youdid you feel restrained from asking questions?
Bollinger: The process was really fine for me. It would have been preferable if the process included an opportunity for private discussion, but I'm really not one to complain about it. Others certainly had a broader view about what happened than I did. I was not seriously affected by it.
Record: How do you see your relationship with interim President Neal during the transition?
Bollinger: I have the highest regard for Homer. I worked with him while I was dean of the Law School and he was vice president for research. I have the highest admiration for him, and I think he is a wonderful person.
Record: How did you view your role as provost--did you consider yourself a hands-on leader with a lot of contact with faculty and students?
Bollinger: I try very hard to remain engaged with students, whether it is meeting with them or teaching a course. Naturally, I have a close affinity with the faculty, since that's what I am and that's what I do.
Record: So you would like to continue teaching as president?
Bollinger: I certainly hope so. I intend to teach one class each year.
Record: How did you become interested in First Amendment issues?
Bollinger: I think it started because my father owned a newspaper and I worked there growing up. That certainly had an effect on me. My early teaching focused on freedom of the press issues, and I just moved on to free speech and First Amendment issues where I developed my expertise.
Record: What skills and programs will you bring with you from Dartmouth to the U-M?
Bollinger: The respect for teaching here [at Dartmouth] is exceptional. The educational programs and extra-curricular programs really translate into unusual, extraordinary student satisfaction.
For me, Dartmouth has given me a chance to broaden my base of understanding of universities since I've been able to work with the different schools here--the Business School, the medical school, the engineering school. That wasn't something I had done as dean.
Record: What will you miss most about your experience at Dartmouth?
Bollinger: I've made a lot of friends here, and I have an agenda that I wanted to help accomplish. I've been engaged with this institutionwhenever you leave you feel a sense of loss.
Record: What are your hobbies--what do you like to do outside of work?
Bollinger: I love the outdoors. I grew up out west and worked every summer for the forest service on ranches. I like to backpack and run. I also write all the time, it's almost instinctual for me.