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Lee Bollinger’s Last-Ditch Case to Save Affirmative Action

An interview with Columbia University President Lee Bollinger:

Before Lee Bollinger was a university president, he was a lawyer.

This is readily apparent in Bollinger’s short bookA Legacy of Discrimination: The Essential Constitutionality of Affirmative Action, co-authored with Geoffrey Stone. Relying on decades in the limelight as a defender of race-based admissions, Bollinger draws on his own experience as he makes a strong legal case for these policies’ constitutionality.

Bollinger, previously the president of the University of Michigan president and currently president of Columbia, has been a central figure on diversity and inclusion on college campuses over his career. While at Michigan, he was a key player in Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003 Supreme Court decision essentially upholding the use of racial preferences to promote diversity.

Now, after 21 years at Columbia, the longest presidential tenure in the Ivy League, Bollinger plans to step down in June—the same month the Supreme Court is widely expected to roll back affirmative action. Two cases before the court seek to overturn Grutter and allege Harvard and the University of North Carolina discriminated against white and Asian American applicants during the admissions process.

Amid this backdrop, Bollinger’s swan song of a book, released a few months ago, emerges as a last-ditch clarion call. I never think of Bollinger, a soon-to-be 77-year-old with wispy hair and a boyish face, as a particularly angry man—but he is in A Legacy of Discrimination, toggling between legal precedent and the United States’ history of cruelty, highlighting the details of systemic oppression at every legal turn. He rightfully warns that we are about to roll back progress and devalue the diversity that defines American education, workplaces, institutions, and America itself.

Read the rest of the article in Charter.