The University Record, November 5, 1997
By Jane R. Elgass
President Lee C. Bollinger met with Senate Assembly last week, setting forth issues he feels must be addressed and commenting on the admissions lawsuit.
Admitting that he has a tendency to make lists that "threaten to intimidate him to inactivity," Bollinger nevertheless produced a moderate list of issues he feels the University needs to address:
How do we improve undergraduate education, with a particular eye to the increasing use of new technologies? The president feels strongly that technology should not supplant, but rather supplement, traditional classroom learning. He also noted that the introduction and use of new technologies "is far too complex a change to be done by a committee," and suggested that current and future experiments be allowed to go forward to see how they work.
What will be the function of the Media Union? "Here," he said, "I believe we are in need of a conception as much as anything." He also noted that candidates for the directorship are under review.
What does "globalization" mean for the University? Should we do more of what we are doing? Should we expand still more, as we've done in recent years, our research and teaching related to global issues? Should we increase our number of international students? Bollinger noted that while there is a need for some central leadership in this area, development of activities should be faculty-driven.
The future of the Medical Center. The president reiterated the commitment to retaining the hospitals, "a commitment I believe in for the security and the vitality of our academic mission." Discussion should focus on the role of the hospitals and Medical Center and our expectations of them as part of the University.
What administrative services do we need and what can be supported in this area? The president happily noted that these issues will "fall in the lap" of Robert Kasdin, the incoming chief financial officer who starts later this month.
Fund raising and development in the post-Campaign era, which will await the appointment of a new vice president. Bollinger noted that private gifts are one of the University's most vital sources of support and he sees this area as expanding rather than contracting.
Relationships with business and industry and issues surrounding technology transfer.
The budgetary structure and tuition. Tuition increases were kept low this year, the president stated, adding that he feels the resident undergraduate tuition is an "extraordinary benefit for the citizens of Michigan." He also noted that there is "precious little discretionary funding available."
Enriching our sense of self and place, developing "an understanding of what the University is as a living entity, its past and present." Among the projects in this area, he cited the appointment of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, who began work this week on what will be a several-years' project to create a master plan for the entire University.
Special attention to the basic sciences, where fundamental discoveries are made, and the arts, which are physically dispersed on campus, as well as attention to refurbishing such cultural institutions as the Rackham Building, the libraries and Hill Auditorium. He also noted that he can "dream" with School of Music students and faculty and others of a 500-seat Arthur Miller Theater.
Bollinger said he believes "we are now at the center of one of the most important controversies in the country. To my mind, the question is this: Do the ideals of Brown vs. Board of Education, with their profound commitment to integration and to the fundamental role of education in realizing that national goal, still have vitality and meaning at the end of the century, or will they slip into obscurity, a noble but largely failed effort of the romantic 20th century?"
Bollinger would like to see the language used for discussing the issues raised by the lawsuit not emphasize diversity. "I prefer to think and speak in terms of integration and of segregation, and of education's role in helping us arrive at the former state," he said. "What we learn from integration, and it is absolutely a matter of learning, is as much or more about similarity as it is about difference. I hope, therefore, that we will not be beguiled or bedeviled by our current language, by our terminology of diversity and multiculturalism, into thinking that we are only concerned with learning from diversity, important as it is."
He also noted that the "evident resegregation" of the University of Texas and University of California "are troublesome, disheartening and demoralizing." In discussion following his address, he said that the Texas and California situations also are "highly instructive" as to what the University would face should it lose the suit.
Bollinger warned that the lawsuit "won't be resolved quickly," that it may take two years or longer and that it might ultimately be taken up by the Supreme Court.
He also noted that opportunities will be made available over the coming months for fair and full discussion and debate on the issues raised by the suit and that the University community will be kept informed about the status of the litigation.
Reiterating that the suit poses "a test of character," Bollinger said: "We must remember always that we are a University committed to full and open discussion and analysis of important social questions."