Every semester, President Bollinger brings about 40 students off the street into his swanky abode at 60 Morningside Drive to find out what’s going on in the collective student consciousness. Registration is competitive, and as Bwog mounted the cushy staircase to PrezBo’s elegantly appointed receiving room, we realized why: the snacks are phenomenal. During a 20 minute schmooze session, the undergrads fed on miniature hamburgers and peeled asparagus served up by a flock of smiling attendants. Here are some highlights from the discussion:

firesideThe Opener: PrezBo began with his standard global university patter, covering the by now familiar tropes of how we need more international students, how much we NEED more space, and how committed we are to educational opportunity.

– On African Studies:
Bollinger pinned the blame for the department’s termination on erstwhile SIPA Dean Lisa Anderson, but said that we should be expecting a “major announcement” regarding the leader of a new department.

– On Athletics:
“I really care a lot about athletics. One of the things I’m been troubled by is the sense that Columbia athletics has not been sufficiently respected or that it’s losing.” Just focus on water polo!

On the distinctiveness of a Columbia alum: “You’re more in debt than the others.” Uneasy laughter. “That was a joke.”

– On the works of Shakespeare: “You actively read them every day. You build a life with them…he had the ability to create characters who are truly, truly real. To do that is an act of genius.”

– On the potential departure of Dean Galil:
“Besides being extraordinary, he’s lovable. I would wish him the best, and would work with him as the president of an institution. I think it would be good for the world.”

– On the disinvitation of President Ahmadinejad: Bollinger abandoned the pretense that the Iranian leader was asked not to speak because of “security concerns.”  New version of events: he was informed on a Wednesday morning that Dean Anderson had invited Ahmadinejad while working in a small group setting at the UN to speak Friday morning. The President’s office couldn’t get a line of communication that would have assured him that Ahmadinejad would consent to a question and answer period, which Bollinger said was essential for this event to have academic merit. Especially considering Ahmadinejad had, one night earlier, implied that the Holocaust did not occur. “Are you unfathomably ignorant, or are you brazenly insulting?” PrezBo asked rhetorically.

– Lydia DePillis