Fireside Chat: Return of the PrezBo
Written by Bwog Staff
Once again the finger-food was set out at
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…There’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.