While neither confirming nor denying that he would accept the Harvard University presidency if offered to him, Lee Bollinger”s vague response to his name appearing on a list of candidates for the job has raised questions about whether he will remain on campus in the coming months.

Last week, The Boston Globe reported that the University of Michigan president was among the top three finalists for the Harvard position.

Although his candidacy has made headlines, Bollinger has only said that he is flattered to be considered and is happy working at the University.

Harvard spokesman Joe Wrinn said Bollinger had been considered from the start of the six-month search but added that the search won”t be over until current Harvard President Neil Rudenstine officially relinquishes his post in June.

“It”s a very fluid process,” Wrinn said. “We”re concerned about getting the best quality person and to do it in a way that is confidential, without too many things getting to the presses.”

With Harvard”s concern for confidentiality, few details can be confirmed on the search and many people are reluctant to discuss the issue.

University of Michigan Regent Kathy White (D-Ann Arbor) declined to comment on the situation.

Other members of the Board of Regents could not be reached for comment over the weekend, although Larry Deitch (D-Bloomfield Hills) has been quoted as saying Bollinger interviewed with Harvard twice this month.

English Prof. Ralph Williams said that it would be a “great pity” if Bollinger were to leave.

“He has begun a great many initiatives which urgently need his attention,” Williams said.

Since being unanimously selected as the University”s 12th president in 1996, Bollinger has led developments in the Life Sciences Institute, campus construction and the Arthur Miller theater, “as well as the arts in general,” Williams said.

University Vice President for Medical Affairs Gil Omenn also said the LSI is a major aspect of Bollinger”s tenure.

“I expect the LSI will be his legacy whether he leaves this year or in 10 years,” Omenn said. “He”s put us on a very good path.”

Williams said the initiatives would not reach their full potential without Bollinger”s presence.

“These initiatives are begun but, from my vantage point, they would, in a sense, be retarded by the absence of his energy and vision,” he said.

But Bollinger has been most visible because of his role in the recent lawsuits challenging the race-conscious admissions policies of the Law School and the College of Literature, Science and the Arts.

Bollinger, who was named as a defendant in both lawsuits just months after stepping into the University”s presidency, chose the University”s law firm and testified in the Law School trial earlier this month.

He has continually been a vocal supporter of the University”s system, citing the necessity of diversity in education.

Williams said Bollinger”s law experience was helpful during the lawsuits.

Bollinger, a noted First Amendment scholar, served as the University”s Law School dean for seven years and as a member of the law faculty for 14 years.

“I applaud deeply his commitment to the goals involved in the lawsuits over the admissions policies,” Williams said. “He occupied an extensive and important role, irrespective of the outcome to the lawsuits.”

When Bollinger was chosen as the University president four years ago, Deitch said he believed the position would be Bollinger”s “dream job.”

Members of the University community offered varying opinions on what Bollinger will do if offered the position.

“I expect he”ll stay here,” Omenn said. “Of course, if Harvard does woo him away, we will be very proud of him.”

Williams said he wants to tell Bollinger to “please stay.”

“For all the reasons Harvard wants him, I hope he chooses to stay,” Williams said, adding that while Bollinger would probably be a very good president for Harvard, “we need him more.”

University students had a different perspective on Bollinger”s influence.

LSA junior Dustin Lee said students haven”t seen much of Bollinger”s influence.

“Aside from a few isolated incidents, I think that the majority of the student body did not feel the effects of a Bollinger presidency,” Lee said.

He added that “other than bailing out the Athletic Department, the (Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality) debacle and a few other notable events, he probably spent the majority of his time caught up in the daily administrative aspects of his job.”

But LSA sophomore Rob Shereda said he”s “very happy” with how Bollinger handled the Students of Color Coalition against Michigamua last spring and that Bollinger is doing “an excellent job with the sweatshop issue.”

“When an issue of importance to students arises, it seems that President Bollinger is always willing to keep the solution from becoming an administrative problem and rather than hand down a judgment from on high, he returns it to interested students,” Shereda said.

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