At Columbia, Faith of Some in President Is Shaken

Ann McClure's picture

Several Columbia University professors said this week that the recent resignations of two high-ranking black administrators have shaken their confidence in the institution’s president, Lee C. Bollinger, and reignited concerns among their colleagues about other aspects of his leadership.

Fredrick C. Harris, a professor of political science and director of Columbia’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies, said in an interview that the resignation of the university’s provost, Claude M. Steele, in June, followed by the more acrimonious departure last week of the undergraduate dean, Michele M. Moody-Adams, were significant not just because the officials were the first African-Americans to hold those key positions, but also because their authority appeared to wither during their tenures.

Dr. Harris said that he wrote to Mr. Bollinger this week to explain how the departures “have shaken my confidence — as well as the confidence of many others at Columbia — in the ability of Columbia to maintain diverse leadership at the top.”

June Cross, an associate professor at the university’s Graduate School of Journalism, said in an interview on Wednesday, “I’m not saying race is the issue, but it is the subtext.” She added, “Michele Moody-Adams was advertised as, ‘Here’s our commitment to diversity.’ If you’re not going to stand behind what you say you hired her to do, what does that say about your commitment?”

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