The Board of Governors and Trustees held a meeting on Tuesday to approve the hiring of Jonathan Holloway, the current provost of Northwestern University, as the next Rutgers University president. As the first Black president in Rutgers University’s history, he will take over when current University President Robert L. Barchi steps down from his position in July.
Board of Governors Chair Mark Angelson said at the meeting that the presidential search committee consisted of board members, faculty, one undergraduate and one graduate student.
“The search committee was tasked with reviewing the credentials and backgrounds of exceptional candidates identified during the nomination process,” Angelson said. “Although intentionally large and inclusive, the search committee was thoughtful, diligent and resolute in its work.”
At a press conference held after the meeting, Angelson said the committee received approximately 250 nominations, which were eventually narrowed to nine candidates. He said diversity was an important factor for choosing a candidate.
“We were looking for a stellar leader with not only a proven track record, but with a vision of what to do with a powerhouse academic research university,” Angelson said.
Holloway’s academic and leadership credentials as well as his commitment to finding a balance between academics and athletics led the committee to select him as the next president, Angelson said.
Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) attended the meeting to show his support for the hiring. He said he met with Holloway in private last week and believes he is an ideal replacement for Barchi. Murphy said he thinks Holloway’s leadership will help the University develop talented students who will go on to contribute to the economy within the state.
“Jonathan understands the need to put Rutgers students first,” Murphy said. “We share a commitment to keeping a Rutgers education affordable and within reach of every student, and from his time at both Northwestern and at Yale, Jonathan has the experience of leading internationally recognized research institutions, and this experience will be invaluable in growing Rutgers’ global imprint.”
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) also expressed his support for Holloway's hiring.
"At a time when only 1 in 5 of all college and university presidents is a minority, it’s encouraging that Rutgers University is taking representation seriously and showing their students what is possible. I look forward to working together again and wish him the best in his new post," Booker said in a statement.
Holloway, joined by his family, attended the meeting to thank the selection committee and the Board of Governors for the opportunity to lead Rutgers. He said his background in history has taught him about the importance of the University’s role in society.
“Through my scholarship I have come to appreciate the nuances that are woven into the fabric of a research university: a deep commitment to curiosity, an embrace of uncertainty, a faith in the timelessness of some ideas, as well as the courage to know that this faith needs to be tested regularly, an unblinking acceptance of complexity and an unwavering dedication to service,” Holloway said.
At the press conference, Holloway discussed his plans for the future of the University. He hopes to improve the University academically by increasing research partnerships between the University and private companies in the area, improving Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences and working to recruit more high school students from New Jersey. He also wants to develop a good relationship with the state legislature, which could help Rutgers secure funding for different academic programs.
“Rutgers has an amazing academic reputation and my job is to do everything I can to enhance it,” Holloway said.
Holloway also said he understands the importance of improving the Department of Athletics. He said he believes being competitive in the Big Ten Conference could help the University’s image and build a sense of community among the students.
Faculty and staff will also be a priority for the next administration, Holloway said. When asked about ongoing union negotiations, Holloway said everyone who works at the University, including everyone from professors to bus drivers to dining hall workers, should be treated with respect.
“I’m not saying respect will just be communicated by saying ‘Hey, you’re doing a great job.’ We need to make sure we are respecting the needs of our large community,” Holloway said.
Todd Wolfson, the president of the Rutgers American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) said in a press release that Holloway’s hiring could be beneficial for the union and offered support for the Board of Governor’s decision.
"Dr. Holloway has studied and written about many of the ideals for which the union has fought, including equity and diversity. Moreover, his scholarly career reflects the Board of Governors' recognition of the importance of serious academic research,” Wolfson said. “We are glad the University is beginning to prioritize many of the issues on which the union has long been advocating.”
During the press conference, Holloway also addressed concerns surrounding his past as a dean at Yale University. In 2015, he was criticized for his response to a professor who sent a culturally insensitive email about Halloween costumes, according to the New York Times. Holloway said being able to connect with students helped the school move past the incident.
“What I am proud of, though, is that I developed a relationship with the students that was strong enough, that although they were disappointed in me for what they believed to be a lack of engagement or action, when I went out to to be amongst them and spend time with them… they knew enough to trust that I would listen to them, that I would be honest with them, even to the point of saying, frankly ‘I will do better,’” Holloway said.
The hiring of Holloway also came under scrutiny at the public Board of Governors meeting. Charlie Kratovil, editor of New Brunswick Today, questioned Barchi’s commitments to outside corporations during his presidency and asked if Holloway will be allowed to have outside business affiliations when he takes office.
“I believe this board made a mistake when you allowed the current president to take on this huge responsibility of being the president but also to continue working other positions, including those with organizations that do business with Rutgers,” Kratovil said.
Angelson did not answer the question, prompting Kratovil to continue asking until his microphone was turned off. When he continued, Angelson asked him to sit down multiple times, resulting in Kratovil being forced to leave the speaking area in order for the meeting to continue.