Fireside Chat: Return of the PrezBo

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BollingerOnce again the finger-food was set out at 60 Morningside Drive and once again the president of Fair Alma took a cue from FDR, hosting a fireside chat in his humble, multi-million dollar abode. 

Employees from the President’s Office removed my coat and guided students from every part of the University up an elegant marble staircase to the reception, which featured an array of crusty breads, fancy cheeses and hors d’oeuvres both sweet and savory. 

After a healthy dose of schmoozing, Bollinger described the format of the discussion: first he would entertain questions posed by the student body and then he himself would ask questions of them. 


Breaking an uncomfortable silence, Dave Duncan (GS ’08) raised a concern about financial aid, a sentiment immediately echoed by other GS students in the room.  Bollinger gave a somewhat rote response about the limited funds of the University and the way that endowment money can be earmarked for a certain college.  However, he supports that the “trajectory of the University is bringing GS closer and closer to the College.” 

Much of the night’s discussion centered on allocation of University funds. Students demanded explanations about costs of tuition and financial aid and Bollinger maintained that while finances, in the midst of the study abroad investigation, seem to be leaching money out of the student body at every turn, “we [the University] don’t make a profit here.  In fact, we specialize in losing money.”  

As the discussion progressed, however, Bollinger was able to open up to his audience with a series of self-deprecating remarks that may not have brought the house down, but certainly lightened the mood of the dark, wood-paneled room.  When explaining why he doesn’t feel self-important, he said his job, compared with a business executive, is “among the hardest jobs I can imagine‚ĶThere’s a lot of people in this institution over whom I exert almost no authority.”

What Prezbo seemed most interested in, however, was finding out from the students what they felt about the election and who they supported and why.  Stephanie Goodsell (CC ’09), who has been working as an intern in Hillary’s campaign, felt that the buzz generated this election season has been more than she had ever seen in her three years at Columbia, with buttons adorning many students and discussions around campus.  Jason Bello (CC ’08) said that in his thesis, he found that the increased excitement in young people was not leading to higher voter turnout among young people, but rather generating people who see the campaign trail as entertainment.

As the night drew on, students voiced concern about homogeneity in campus political opinion, the pop culture nature of political campaigns and still more GS complaints.  Bollinger, who never fully sat down on the stool next to him for the entire event, began to slouch with fatigue before calling the discussion to a close.  Students took the last few minutes to commiserate while stuffing food into napkins to supplement their dearth of Dining Dollars before they made their way out of the veritable mansion at 116th and Morningside.


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  1. was there  

    and completely underwhelmed. i guess he really is just a figurehead. he didn't really answer any of the questions. he just sort of rambled on till someone brought up something else.

  2. he also seemed  

    to be begging students to bring something up other than the same old campus chatter (ie, Manhattanville, Ahmadinejad, GS financial aid) which I can't blame him for.

  3. 234234222  

    Can someone describe the mansion? Is it nice? Any pictures?

    • Yeah  

      It's really nice. All the furniture is nice, large portraits, marble staircase, sterling chandeliers, grand piano. Sort of like a mini-White house.

      Also, some of the comments were ridiculous. One GSer said that the name "General Studies" sound like poop so they should rename it School for interesting people or something. And someone else asked if being the president satisfied his ego. Really sort of crass and rude.

  4. Wow  

    JB's thesis sounds kind of amazing.

  5. why does everyone  

    ask questions to which they already know the responses? Next time someone ask PrezBo about what drives him to do his job. Ask him what personal sacrifices he has made for his career and if he would change it. Ask him what he wants to be when he grows up or at least what he wants his legacy to be at columbia. I'd be curious to hear those questions answered and I don't know what the responses would be.

  6. 012012400300  

    I wonder what it feels like to live in such a beautiful home, knowing that in a few years you'll have to move out of it. I wonder if you develop a kind of romance with the house - the kind that chokes you with nostalgia when in the future you walk by it only to see another owner/president behind the window.

  7. fireside

    A true fireside chat should be held beside a fire.

  8. oh man

    prezbo is so hotttt

  9. uhh  

    Don't university presidents serve as long as they want? It's not like the white house, because he never has to leave!

  10. ...  

    who does general studies report to? the same guy as private loan... major debt!

  11. One problem...

    Generals don't report to majors.

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