Lee Bollinger

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Lee Bollinger
Lee Bollinger - Daniella Zalcman less noise.jpg
19th President of Columbia University
Assumed office
June 1, 2002
Preceded byGeorge Erik Rupp
Succeeded byMinouche Shafik
12th President of the University of Michigan
In office
Preceded byJames J. Duderstadt
Succeeded byMary Sue Coleman
Personal details
Lee Carroll Bollinger

(1946-04-30) April 30, 1946 (age 76)
Santa Rosa, California, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Oregon (BS)
Columbia Law School (JD)
WebsiteOffice of the President
Academic work

Lee Carroll Bollinger[1] (born April 30, 1946) is an American lawyer and educator who is serving as the 19th and current president of Columbia University, where he is also the Seth Low Professor of the University and a faculty member of Columbia Law School.[2] Formerly the president of the University of Michigan, he is a noted legal scholar of the First Amendment and freedom of speech.[3] He was at the center of two notable United States Supreme Court cases regarding the use of affirmative action in admissions processes.[4][5]

In July 2010, Bollinger was appointed chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York board of directors for 2011. Previously, he had served as deputy chair.[6] In 2004, he was elected to the American Philosophical Society.[7]

On April 14, 2022, Bollinger announced in an email to the Columbia student body that he will be retiring from his role as President effective June 30, 2023.

Life and career[edit]

Bollinger was born in Santa Rosa, California, the son of Patricia Mary and Lee C. Bollinger.[8][9] He was raised there and in Baker City, Oregon. Bollinger spent a year (1963) as an exchange student in Brazil with AFS Intercultural Programs. He received his B.S. in political science (1968; Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of Oregon, where he became a brother of Theta Chi Fraternity, and his J.D. from Columbia Law School (1971). He served as a law clerk to Judge Wilfred Feinberg of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (1971–1972) and Chief Justice Warren Burger of the Supreme Court of the United States (1972–1973). Bollinger went on to join the faculty of the University of Michigan Law School in 1973, becoming a full professor in 1979 and dean of the school in 1987. He was appointed provost of Dartmouth College in 1994 before returning to the University of Michigan in 1996 as president.

Bollinger assumed his current position as president of Columbia University in June 2002.[10] On October 19, 2010, the Board of Trustees announced through a university-wide email that Bollinger had agreed to continue as president for at least the next five years.

Affirmative action cases[edit]

In 2003, after having served as president of the University of Michigan, Bollinger made headlines as the named defendant representing the University of Michigan in the Supreme Court cases Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger.[11] In the Grutter case, the Court found by a 5–4 margin that the affirmative action policies of the University of Michigan Law School were constitutional. But at the same time, it found by a 6–3 margin in the Gratz case that the undergraduate admissions policies of Michigan were not narrowly tailored to a compelling interest in diversity and 20 predetermined points are awarded to underrepresented minorities, and thus that they violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In 2006, affirmative action in university admissions in the state of Michigan was banned by a ballot initiative known as the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.[12]

President of Columbia[edit]

President of Council on Foreign Relations Richard N. Haass talks with President Bollinger

As president (nicknamed "PrezBo" by students),[13] Bollinger has attempted to expand the international scope of the University, taking frequent trips abroad and inviting world leaders to its campus. Bollinger has been criticized for taking a neutral public position on controversies regarding the Middle East Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) department and for placing the department in receivership.[14][15] He has also been the subject of criticism for his role in advocating the expansion of the university into the Manhattanville neighborhood and the possible use of eminent domain to help it seize property there.[16] The Bollinger administration's expansion plans have been criticized as fundamentally incompatible with the 197/a plan for development crafted by the community, and for failing to address the neighborhood's need to maintain affordable housing stock.

President Bollinger has lived in the Columbia President's House since February 2004, after the building underwent a $23 million renovation.[17][18] In February 2022, the Columbia Spectator reported that he had purchased an Upper West Side apartment for $11.7 million.[19] In 2008, his salary was $1.7 million.[20] In 2013, Bollinger's total compensation was $4.6 million, making him the highest paid private college president in the United States.[21] Bollinger's residence has been the site of demonstrations in which his high salary was criticized as an example of the university's "inequitable allocation of resources."[22] In a January 2021 rally during a student tuition strike protesting the university's tuition rates, Young Democratic Socialists of America organizers cited as further evidence of alleged inequitable allocation of university resources the fact that Bollinger's salary had been frozen that year, while the Barnard College administration's salaries had been cut, including by 20 percent in the case of the Barnard College president, Sian Beilock.[23]

In November 2006, Bollinger was elected to the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City, a term lasting for three years.[24]

In January 2022, Columbia announced that economist Nemat "Minouche" Shafik, current president of the London School of Economics, would succeed him as president of the university.[25]

World Leaders Forum[edit]

Columbia invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at the World Leaders Forum on September 24, 2007.[26] A number of local and national politicians denounced Columbia for hosting Ahmadinejad.[26][27][28] Bollinger described the event as part of "Columbia's long-standing tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate, especially on global issues."[29] Bollinger released a statement outlining his introduction, explaining to the student body that the free speech afforded to Ahmadinejad was for the sake of the students and the faculty rather than for the benefit of Ahmadinejad himself, whom Bollinger referred to as "exhibiting all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator."[30][31] Bollinger was criticized by students at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs,[32] but praised by Bob Kerrey who said that Bollinger "turned what could have been an embarrassment for higher education into something quite positive."[33]

On the media[edit]

On July 14, 2010, he wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal calling for the American government to subsidize its journalists.[34]

Personal life[edit]

Bollinger is married to artist Jean Magnano Bollinger. They have two children and five grandchildren.[35] Bollinger's family is Catholic; his daughter, Carey Jean Bollinger,[36] and son, Lee Carroll Bollinger,[37] married in Catholic ceremonies.


In addition to his academic and administrative positions, Bollinger has written many articles and books on the subject of free speech.

  • The Tolerant Society: Freedom of Speech and Extremist Speech in America (Oxford University Press, 1986) ISBN 0-19-504000-7
  • Images of a Free Press (University of Chicago Press, 1991) ISBN 0-226-06349-6
  • Eternally Vigilant: Free Speech in the Modern Era (University Of Chicago Press, 2002) ISBN 0-226-06353-4
  • Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open: A Free Press for a New Century (Oxford University Press, 2010) ISBN 978-0-19-530439-8
  • The Free Speech Century (Oxford University Press, 2018) ISBN 978-0-19-084138-6
  • Regardless of Frontiers: Global Freedom of Expression in a Troubled World (Columbia University Press, 2021) ISBN 978-0-23-119699-4
  • National Security, Leaks and Freedom of the Press: The Pentagon Papers Fifty Years On (Oxford University Press, 2021) ISBN 978-0-19-751939-4

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A Texture of Mind and Manner". Columbia Magazine. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
  2. ^ "About the President | Office of the President".
  3. ^ "Lee C. Bollinger." Newsmakers, Issue 2. Gale Group, 2003.
  4. ^ Text of Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003) is available from: LII 
  5. ^ Text of Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003) is available from: LII 
  6. ^ "Fed Announces Chairs of Regional Banks for 2011". The Wall Street Journal. July 19, 2010.
  7. ^ "Three Columbians Elected to the American Philosophical Society".
  8. ^ "The Inauguration of Lee C. Bollinger". The University Record. 1997-09-24. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
  9. ^ "Patricia Mary Bollinger". The Press Democrat. 2010-02-16. Retrieved 2015-09-24.
  10. ^ "Office of the President, Biography". Columbia University. Retrieved 20 October 2009.
  11. ^ Totenberg, Nina (June 23, 2003). "Split Ruling on Affirmative Action: High Court Rules on Race as Factor in University Admissions". NPR.
  12. ^ "The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative". Adversity.Net, Inc.
  13. ^ Greenwell, Megan (2008-11-30). "Bollinger Stays Popular Even In Hard Times". Columbia Spectator. Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
  14. ^ Inside Higher Ed, War and Peace at Columbia
  15. ^ Statement from Lee C. Bollinger on the David Project Film
  16. ^ Eviatar, Daphne (May 21, 2006). "The Manhattanville Project". The New York Times.
  17. ^ "President's House".
  18. ^ Arenson, Karen; Kleinfield, N.R. (May 25, 2005). "Columbia's Chief, Free Speech Expert, Gets Earful". The New York Times.
  19. ^ Mitrasinovic, Maya; Sentner, Irie (8 February 2022). "President Bollinger acquires $11.7 million Upper West Side apartment". Columbia Spectator.
  20. ^ Staff Reports, 'Vandy chancellor among top earners', The Tennessean, November 14, 2010 [1]
  21. ^ Saul, Stephanie (6 December 2015). "Salaries of Private College Presidents Continue to Rise, Chronicle Survey Finds". The New York Times.
  22. ^ Mitrasinovic, Maya; Senter, Irie (8 February 2022). "President Bollinger acquires $11.7 million Upper West Side apartment". Columbia Spectator.
  23. ^ Melbourne, Abby; Andrews, Faith; Mitrasinovic, Maya (18 January 2021). "Local candidates join student organizers, back largest tuition strike in history at Sunday rally=Columbia Spectator". Columbia Spectator.
  24. ^ Dow Jones Online Financial News NY Fed board appointment
  25. ^ "Columbia University Names Minouche Shafik 20th President". Columbia News. Retrieved 2023-01-19.
  26. ^ a b Kadushin, Peter (September 23, 2007). "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives in Manhattan". Daily News. New York.
  27. ^ (AFP) – Sep 20, 2007 (2007-09-20). "AFP: Controversy swirls around Iranian leader's visit to New York". Archived from the original on 2011-05-20. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
  28. ^ "Lee Bollinger, Tough Guy". The Wall Street Journal. September 24, 2007.
  29. ^ Outrage over Iranian president's NYC visit September 20, 2007
  30. ^ "President Bollinger's Statement about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Scheduled Appearance at Columbia". Columbia News. 2007-09-19. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
  31. ^ "Ahmadinejad speaks; outrage and controversy follow - CNN.com". 2007-09-24. Archived from the original on March 5, 2008.
  32. ^ "An Open Letter to President Bollinger".
  33. ^ Karni, Annie (September 25, 2007). "Bollinger Stuns Ahmadinejad With Blunt Rebuke". NY Sun.
  34. ^ Journalism Needs Government Help July 14, 2010
  35. ^ "Biography". Office of the President Lee C. Bollinger. Columbia University. January 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  36. ^ "Carey Bollinger and Benjamin Danielson". The New York Times. 22 July 2012.
  37. ^ "Jennifer Ellis and Lee Bollinger". The New York Times. 13 July 2008.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by 12th President of the University of Michigan
Succeeded by
Preceded by 19th President of Columbia University