Search Committee Interviews Bollinger

Presidential search nears end; UMich chief in top four

NEW YORK--The presidential search reached a critical stage this weekend, as the search committee flew University of Michigan President Lee C. Bollinger--one of its top candidates--to Manhattan for a secret meeting at a posh midtown hotel.

In a prolonged session at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, the committee dined with Bollinger and spent a full morning in discussions with him.

The search group is expected to reconvene in Cambridge on Sunday to continue its deliberations. Sources say a decision is likely within the next two weeks.

Bollinger--along with Princeton Professor Amy Gutmann '71 and Harvard Provost Harvey V. Fineberg '67--is among the top three or four remaining candidates in the eight-month search. Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers has also been mentioned in recent weeks.

The committee met behind closed doors on Sunday in a 14th-floor suite at the Plaza Athne, a small four-star luxury hotel on the Upper East Side.

A search committee staffer maintained tight security around the meeting, which was registered as the "Goodall party." The "Goodall" staffer asked Crimson reporters to leave the hotel, and hotel security hovered near the reporters as they waited in the lobby.

After their morning meeting, the eight search committee members present dined with Bollinger in a private dining room on the second floor of the hotel. They spoke with him again briefly again after lunch and he left the hotel around 2 p.m. accompanied outside by a hotel security guard.

Bollinger declined to comment on the meetings. After his departure, the search committee retired for a final hour of discussion.

When the search committee meeting broke up, members of the committee appeared upbeat and joked with Crimson reporters but declined comment.

Members of the University of Michigan's Board of Regents, which met with Bollinger before his departure for New York, said Bollinger is operating under the assumption that he will continue at Michigan.

The regents, Michigan's elected governing board, selected Bollinger as president from a short list of four candidates in 1996.

He is a noted First Amendment scholar and a respected educator, and has recently made headlines for his efforts to defend Michigan's affirmative action policy.

In previous interviews with The Crimson, Bollinger has declined to comment on whether he is interested in the job. But he issued a press statement on Jan. 9 that said he was pleased by Harvard's interest in him as a potential president.

"Obviously, it's flattering to hear one's name on such a list," he wrote. "I continue, however, to be very happy in my work here at the University of Michigan,"

--David H. Gellis and Andrew J. Miller contributed to the reporting of this article.

--Staff writer Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at shoichet@fas.harvard.edu.

--Staff writer Garrett M. Graff can be reached at ggraff@fas.harvard.edu.

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