Bollinger on Manhattanville, Core endowment, NYPD, and the V-Show
Remember that time Spectator talked with University President Lee Bollinger the other week? We spent so much time talking about the rescheduling of GS Class Day that we had a follow-up meeting to talk with him about some other big issues, including funding for Manhattanville, the endowment of the Core Curriculum, spying on Muslim students by the NYPD, and attending the Varsity Show. Highlights below!
- Although Bollinger speculated a year ago that the cost of the new Business School in Manhattanville would be about $400 million, he said in the interview that that price tag had gone up, as construction estimates often fluctuate as more details of the design are nailed down. The extra funds would not be provided by the University, though, but through additional fundraising. Recently, Leon Cooperman, Business ’67, donated $25 million to the construction.
- We asked Bollinger if he had seen the Varsity Show this year, or if he wanted to. Although he didn’t make it, he said, “I do think about it actually and I’d like to do it. I mean, for some reason, and this is silly, but I don’t get it on my calendar, or I’m travelling, but I’d like to.” We recounted the plot and he seemed amused, so V119 creative team: get an appointment in the presidential calendar early!
- The academic conference center, which will be a shared building with multiple meeting spaces, is one of the three buildings set to open in 2016. Funding for the others—the Jerome L. Greene Science Center and the Lenfest Center for the Arts—is secure, but Bollinger said the $75 million needed for the conference center still needs to be raised. Bollinger, who is overseeing that fundraising, said there is no major donor yet.
- In terms of other Manhattanville buildings, the School of International and Public Affairs is still working on fundraising. The school has launched a $150 million capital campaign, but that money is set to go to current programming for the school, not Manhattanville. Bollinger said that in situations like this, ”You build a base of giving to support a school, and then if you have a major project like a new building, you have that base in which you’ve got some donors who will come through for a big, big gift. SIPA is still at that stage of building up the big base of support.” He added, “In the course of doing this, we’re identifying people who may want to make a major gift, but we don’t have that done yet.” The building will be about 400,000 square feet and is estimated to cost between $350 and $400 million.
- Bollinger would not comment about the mayor’s applied science competition—which awarded $100 million to Cornell and $15 million to NYU to build tech campuses on Roosevelt Island and in downtown Brooklyn, respectively—except to say, “We continue in productive conversations with the city.”
- On the Manhattanville construction site this semester, a worker died in a building collapse. Bollinger called the incident “tragic” and said that “there are processes for thinking through what actually happened and why it happened and whether anyone is responsible and so on, and that is still underway.”
- In addition, Lend Lease, the contractor overseeing the first phase of construction, agreed to pay over $50 million in a fraud settlement over a separate project. This has prompted critics to accuse the University of poor oversight with regard to safety or selection of construction firms. Columbia “has gone beyond any norm in the construction industry or practices in trying to ensure safety and compliance with all the rules we need to follow.” Bollinger added, “I have personally checked on that, I asked for reports about it, and I am very much reassured that we have gone beyond the norm.” Lend Lease will continue to work on the project, but “we are always reviewing practices of the people whom we employ to do construction or anything else, and if they ever fall below the standards that we expect, we will no longer have a relationship with them.”
- In other fundraising news, Bollinger is also looking for a major donor for the Northwest Corner Building on the Morningside campus, but nothing is in the works at this stage.
- Bollinger said he met with top officials in the city in the wake of reports that the NYPD had spied on the website of the Muslim Students Association. Besides being fully reassured that no monitoring took place besides of the publicly available websites, he said, “We expressed our general concern about a policy of systemic surveillance of a general population of people based on race or religion or ethnicity without regard to a linkage to criminal activity. That is the principal criticism of the policies as described, not with respect to Columbia, but the whole thing. I’ve expressed that to the city.”
- In meeting with Columbia College’s Board of Visitors last week, Bollinger said he hoped to convey the importance of endowing the Core and the faculty, each of which will be the recipients of a $100 million endowment. He hopes that the board will “think even more than they do now … about the faculty as well as the students because it’s all one. If you care about students, you’ve got to care about the economics department. If you care about the economics department or the political science department, you’ve got to care about students.”
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