University President Lee Bollinger took questions on Occupy Wall Street, job prospects, and a favorite topic—globalizaton—at a fireside chat for graduate students on Wednesday.
“The basic idea is that in the past decade, and in the past quarter-century, the world has changed substantially,” Bollinger said. “We need to make it possible for faculty and students to learn what this new world is all about, what they need to face, so we’ve set up offices in seven parts of the world,” Bollinger said, referring to the university’s global centers.
President Bollinger then asked the students how many of them had been to China, India, and Africa, each of which received a small showing of hands. When he asked how many had been to Europe, almost every hand went up.
“That’s good, and that’s the problem,” Bollinger said, chuckling.
Jess Applebaum, a third-year student in the School of the Arts, brought up financial aid. She said she felt “curious and hopeful that Columbia might, in the future, continue to give more funding toward artists to be able to come and do their work” at the University.
Bollinger used that as an opportunity to discuss the Manhattanville expansion, explaining that he believes “the Manhattanville campus and the new building for the School of Arts will actually lead to much more success in fundraising for financial aid. People think these things are exciting. They want to be part of it, and they want to help.”
Daphne Carr, a music student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, asked for Bollinger’s perspective as a First Amendment scholar on the Occupy Wall Street protesters’ rights and the violence at universities like UC Davis.
“One of the things you learn as a university president is that you just don’t call in the police until you have no choice,” Bollinger said of the violence at California schools last month.
He went on to weigh in on both sides of the New York Occupy Wall Street movement, saying that the city does have the power to limit protesters’ actions in Zuccotti Park in the current cases which have been decided in court.
“That doesn’t mean that you can’t make a new argument for a new case and a new approach,” he said.
Carr was not completely satisfied with Bollinger’s response.
“I thought he answered the part of my question about Zuccotti Park very logically, but it seemed like he was not aware … that Columbia students have been arrested and that many faculty are involved in organizing [OWS],” she said afterward. “I was hoping he would give a more personalized statement about that.”
Another topic that came up often on Wednesday night was students’ concerns about job prospects after graduation. One student quoted statistics from an article in The Economist showing that American universities have produced far more Ph.D.s in the last few years than there are available tenured faculty positions.
Bollinger responded by saying that he is aware of the trend. “I’m trying to keep us expanding, because I think we need to do that. We need to catch up.”