Bollinger Doing his Thing in NYC

The instructor of a course I’m taking now on University history has suggested Bollinger’s administration was the University’s first “imperial” presidency. His most recent move at Columbia – with big names and a presumably big budget – is classic Bollinger, who always had a flair for the grandiose.

“Gregory Mosher has directed and produced about 150 productions, at Lincoln Center, on Broadway and off, at the Goodman Theater in Chicago and in London at the Royal National Theater and in the West End. Now Mr. Mosher is about to take on his most unusual production yet, as director of the new “University Arts Initiatives” at Columbia University.

It is a post created by Columbia’s president, Lee C. Bollinger, to build the arts into the lives of students, professors and others and to build Columbia more into the arts.

“All of us believe there should be far less separation among intellectual and creative activities,” Mr. Bollinger said during an interview in his office on Friday, as Mr. Mosher, sitting next to him, nodded in agreement.

“We don’t know exactly how we will do this,” Mr. Bollinger added. “But we are going to make an effort. We hope to build something quite distinctive, and to make a contribution.” He declined to disclose Mr. Mosher’s salary. The appointment, effective immediately, is to be announced today.

Finding new ways to thrust Columbia into the arts has been a priority for Mr. Bollinger since he became president in 2002.

Shortly after his arrival from the University of Michigan, where he was also president, he announced that Columbia and Michigan would jointly sponsor a stage adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s novel “Midnight’s Children” by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Mr. Bollinger has had other ideas, too, like creating a long-term relationship with a dancer like Mikhail Baryshnikov or Bill T. Jones, although that has not come to fruition. Now he is seeking a more systematic way to meld Columbia, the arts and the community.

” ‘Midnight’s Children’ made a stab at this,” he said. “The idea is not to take that as a template, but to find other ways, too. We need someone to really think this through and do it, and that is Gregory. ”

He said he had heard about Mr. Mosher years ago, when he was trying to create the Arthur Miller Theater at Michigan. “Gregory was at the top of everyone’s list for a director,” he said. …”

> From NYTimes: “Director’s Job: Involve Columbia More in the Arts”

What Arthur Miller theater, you ask? I suggest the Daily’s classic editorial on the subject, “Death of a Sales Pitch” from July 2002:

” … The misfortune of these events is that the facility could have been completed without excessive waste and the University could be enjoying the benefits of a superb facility if the unrealistic goal of a “world-class” theater had not been so vigorously advanced. If Bollinger had adhered to a more reasonable vision for the project, Arthur Miller would have a structure to honor his contributions to the University and American drama. Bollinger’s hubristic belief that he could accomplish the mammoth undertaking despite limited funds has hurt both the University’s drama department and the entire community. “

Author: Rob