We all know how PrezBo bides his time these days—alternating between his office in Low and his fireside
armchair in his Presidential mansion, eagerly awaiting the call that he has been appointed the 113th Justice
of the United States Supreme Court. But how did he spend his time when he was just a lowly undergrad at
the University of Oregon in the 1960s? We at The Blue and White were curious to find out. After a little bit of
hunting, we have put together a snapshot of what PrezBo, the frat boy (Theta Chi) and vice president of the
Associated Students of the University of Oregon (ASUO) senate, was like during his 1964-1968 run at UO.
An excerpt from the 1967 Oregana, the university’s yearbook, about the ASUO senate during Bollinger’s
“In the past few years, however, attempts have been made, on both fronts, to give some meaning to the term student government. The direction is clear, toward more student voice in the real centers of power, the faculty and administration. What is not clear is how far, in this direction, student government can, or wants to, go.”
A February 1967 article in the Daily Emerald, University of Oregon’s student newspaper, reporting on a panel at which Prezbo spoke about activism on campus:
“‘Entrenched and upholding the puritanism of strict faculty control’ was ASUO Vice President Lee Bollinger’s description of the University administration. ‘The student is not here just to learn,’ maintained Bollinger, ‘but to develop an activism that will influence the outside community.’”
From a November 1966 article that ran in the Daily Emerald reporting on a panel Prezbo spoke at centered on the attitudes of students at Oregon in the turbulent 1960s:
“Bollinger stated that the basic sources of student frustration were the bureaucratic quality of the University administration, the professionalism of the faculty, and the meaninglessness of the course system. These problems, said Bollinger, lead to ‘emphasis on training students rather than teaching them to think, organize, discuss and create.’ Bollinger asserted that the university community should be the joint responsibility of the legislators, administrators, faculty and students, alike.”
In an October 1966 column written by Prezbo in the Daily Emerald headlined “Student Maturity Required in ASUO Posts Says Bollinger”, he laid out his vision for a healthy student-faculty relationship.
“The student-faculty relationship can only be enhanced by pursuing a democratic process whereby issues concerning all are decided by all.”
PrezBo reflecting on his undergraduate years in the spring 2002 issue of Cascade, the biannual alumni magazine of the University of Oregon.
“College had a profound effect on me. I recall it as a remarkably serious intellectual experience when I felt deeply the quality of the education available to me.” As a student in the politically turbulent 1960s, Bollinger initially became involved in student government but later realized he was an academic at heart. “My senior year was one of the best years of my life,” he recalls. “I lived alone and read—it was a wonderful opportunity to digest an incredible array of novels, philosophy, and social theory, and to be around great intellectuals.”
We recently asked PrezBo about what he had to say about his glory days at UO.
“I felt there were two basic experiences that students had at that time. One was that of being in opposition to the administration and the other was, if not complete alignment, then still working towards the same set of values. And I felt very much the latter. I saw that there weren’t so much irreconcilable differences between the perspective of young people in universities and the senior people I had to deal with. I felt it was a cordial, respectful relationship. My experience in college gave me an enormous respect for universities and the people who lead them as faculty, as deans or as presidents. I saw that that was a worthy life.”
“The experience was a very important one for me because I was working with a number of people who were very dedicated not only to campus issues but to the important problems of that period–the war in Vietnam and Civil Rights. Campus activism really centered around those larger national debates. You really felt part of it. There were a number of national organizations that were connected to student government. It seemed to matter. And I think it did matter. So I would say doing things that tried to advance the debates about these issues. I felt I learned a lot about the world.”
“No one ever imagines that they will be a university president. Some may think of being a U.S. Senator or maybe a successful CEO, but at that age I don’t think many people think of themselves as aiming to be a university president.”
We also checked in with Henry Drummonds, who was the president of the ASUO senate while PrezBo served as his vice president.
“I did not specifically think in those days that Lee would become a University President, but only because I fully expected him to become a President of our country or a U.S. Senator or a Supreme Court justice.”
“Lee was a serious, hardworking, super-smart, and very personable campus politician. In our work as student politicians and officeholders, he helped in such campus fights of the day as the elimination of “closing hours.” for women in the UO dorms, better seating for students in the football stadium, starting a program to bring controversial speakers to campus, and starting a program of publishing student evaluations of profs. There were also issues like the draft and the Vietnam War, and Lee supported my own and numerous other activities drawing attention to and protesting our government’s policies in these areas.”
Daniel Stone contributed reporting.