Professor Obama?

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

This post was updated on August 28 at 7:41 p.m. ET

Critics like to accuse the 44th president of the United States of being professorial. He may be about to prove them right.

On Monday, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger reportedly announced that President Obama will be returning to the university after his presidency ends in January 2017. The Columbia Spectator reported that Bollinger told students at this year’s convocation that the university would “host” Obama after office, but did not offer details on his exact role.

Long before he became president, Obama graduated from Columbia with the class of 1983. The New York City-based university was a finalist to host his future presidential library, but lost to the University of Chicago earlier this year. Obama is not the only president with ties to Columbia: Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt attended its law school, and Dwight D. Eisenhower briefly served as the school’s president before his election to the White House.

Obama also joins a select group of presidents with deep ties to American higher education. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe helped found the University of Virginia during Madison’s presidency. Before entering politics, Woodrow Wilson was the president of Princeton University. While serving as a judge, William Howard Taft taught constitutional law as the dean of the University of Cinncinati’s law school. Bill Clinton also worked as a law professor at the University of Arkansas before his election to statewide office.

It’s unclear exactly what Obama’s role at Columbia will be, but it will likely involve his broader post-White House plans. The university announced in May that the Obama Foundation, built along similar lines as Bill Clinton’s post-presidential foundation, will be based on its campus. A professorship could also be in the works: Obama previously taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago before and during his terms as an Illinois state senator.

Update at 7:02 p.m. via a tweet from Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo News:

Update at 7:41 p.m. via a statement from Columbia University:

Lee Bollinger’s comment at Convocation today that he was looking forward to welcoming back Columbia’s most famous alumnus only reiterated the May 12 statement by the Barack Obama Foundation that it “intends to maintain a presence at Columbia University for the purpose of exploring and developing opportunities for a long term association” and reflected no further developments concerning President Obama’s plans.