After five years at the University, almost everyone is eager to get out. Fifth-year seniors are seen as a sort of anomaly a slacker who clearly didn”t get his act together and forgot to get those crucial science credits. After five years, everyone is wondering why you are still hanging out at college. The same cannot be said for a president especially a good president.
I don”t speak only for myself when I say that University president Lee C. Bollinger will be missed. I was never a student here before Bollinger arrived, so I don”t have any personal recollections of a pre-Bollinger University. But from what I”ve read and heard, I didn”t miss anything.
At the risk of sounding like a 14-year old at a Ricky Martin concert, I must say this: Bollinger is the best president this University has ever seen. That doesn”t mean that he hasn”t made his fair share of mistakes, but it does mean that when people consider the legacy of our 12th president, they will see a prominent academic figure. My only regret when watching Bollinger leave is knowing that the University was little more than a transition for him a training ground for bigger and arguably better things to come.
The criticisms of Bollinger are incredibly vapid. He didn”t infringe on the First Amendment rights of an historical University student group. He didn”t change the labor strategy of Nike. He didn”t set up 27 acres of parking. He didn”t personally shake hands with every single student on campus.
In order to take these criticisms seriously, one has to honestly believe that doing those things are part of his job description. News flash: They aren”t.
Looking at the bigger pictures, the student activists will prove to be nothing more than a brief aside in his legacy, if they get that much attention at all. In terms of academic legacies, everyone knows that protesters come with the territory at a large, liberal college. Bollinger handled them as best he could indeed, better than he perhaps should have. He could have called security and vacated SOLE from his offices in ten minutes instead, he entertained them and allowed them to make their point. He could have forced the SCC out of the Union, but he let them hang their banners and raise their issues.
In the long run, no one, not even the displaced workers in third world countries forced into unemployment by a starry-eyed student group, cares about protests. Protests come and go on college campuses they are as much a part of the scenery as old buildings and raving Christians.
Bollinger won”t be remembered for the empty accusations of inadequacy. He will be remembered for doing his job and doing it better than anyone else has.
He”ll be remembered for firing two shifty basketball coaches and bringing Bill Martin to the University as our athletic director. The turn-around of the sports department isn”t complete yet years of neglect aren”t erased overnight. But Bollinger has gone a long way toward fixing things.
He”ll be remembered for the Life Sciences Institute a program that has already brought fame to this University. With the completion of the LSI, the University will be poised to be a leader in scientific research for years to come. In and of itself, the LSI would have secured Bollinger”s incredible legacy, but he didn”t stop there.
He”ll be remembered for being the best fundraiser this University has ever known, increasing donations to the University from $180 million annually to $220 million. That”s the primary job of an administrator to ensure the finances of the institution. No one can criticize Bollinger for failing on that end.
He”ll be remembered as the president who opened his doors and celebrated with students while the football team made its way to a national championship. He”ll be remembered as the president who opened his doors again to students distraught over the terrorist attacks on America. He”ll be remembered as the president seen running through the Arb, the president spotted picking up his own laundry at Gold Bond Cleaners on a Friday afternoon, the president who met with students at fireside chats.
But above all things, he”ll be remembered as the president whose name is attached to a landmark Supreme Court trial. Bollinger has taken the strongest stance on affirmative action, and whether someone agrees or disagrees with affirmative action, it will be what Bollinger is remembered for. Even if the University”s lawsuits don”t go all the way to the Supreme Court (which is highly unlikely), Bollinger will forever be considered the one who set a precedent for the academic defense of affirmative action.
After only five years, Bollinger has proved himself to be an invaluable asset to this University. His job isn”t to placate the ever-unsatisfied minority, it”s to lead this University. No one can honestly suggest that he hasn”t done that and done it well.
Manish Raiji can be reached via email at email@example.com.