On Thursday, Apr. 16 at 8 p.m., President Lee C. Bollinger will participate in a debate on the future of affirmative action held at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The event, part of a debate series co-produced by the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs and MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, is being taped for later broadcast on PBS stations. It will be available live online through the Miller Center's website.
The question of the debate is whether affirmative action should focus on class and wealth rather than race and ethnicity.
President Bollinger will join with Julian Bond, Chairman, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, in debating Dalton Conley, Chair, Department of Sociology, New York University and John McWhorter, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. The debate will be moderated by Ray Suarez, Senior Correspondent of "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."
Before he came to Columbia, Bollinger served as president and law school dean at the University of Michigan, where he actively supported the university's legal defense in two U.S. Supreme Court cases that affirmed and clarified diversity as a compelling justification for affirmative action in higher education. In advocating for the Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger cases, he has made the case that a diverse student body is necessary not only to remove historical obstacles blocking certain groups from higher education—a moral imperative—but for universities to fulfill their responsibility of educating young people to be productive citizens in an increasingly diverse society.
Columbia has long been committed to the principle of diversity. Attracting the most socio-economically diverse student body among Ivy group schools, Columbia has the Ivy League's largest proportion of Pell grant recipients, at approximately 15 percent. Pell grants are generally available to students from families earning less than $40,000 per year. In March 2008, the University announced new expansions of financial aid
, replacing all need-based loans with grants and eliminating tuition, room, board and fees for families with incomes below $60,000.
"We are both proud of our diversity and determined to maintain it by expanding aid to the extent our resources allow so that our students will continue to benefit from the full range of experiences that are part of a Columbia education," said Bollinger, "and, we hope, part of the lives they choose to lead in the future because of those experiences."