University President Jonathan Holloway gave his first address to the University Senate on Friday.
“Although I have sent out various electronic messages and videos to the University-wide community, and although I have met with various groups of faculty, staff, students and alumni, this is my first opportunity to address the Rutgers community live,” he said, “I sorely wish that I could be doing this in person.”
Holloway said that during his first eight months as the Rutgers president, several things have happened in our collective lives, such as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, moments of racial reckoning and financial setbacks.
These events require the Rutgers community to come together in order to build a better and stronger University, he said.
“I will talk with you about the idea of a beloved community, the importance of being relentless in our pursuit of academic excellence and the need to develop strategic institutional clarity,” Holloway said. “These are not the only things that will occupy my time as your president, of course, but it is my hope that through my words and actions over the coming years you will be able to look back at this moment and see that I was committed to these values from the very start of my tenure and that they are recognized as hallmarks of my presidency.”
Before getting into his address, Holloway took a moment to reflect on the life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He said he wants to honor Ginsburg for not only her legal mind and dedication to justice but also for her time as a member of the Rutgers community.
During her time at Rutgers, he said Ginsburg demonstrated an ability to work with others who had opposing views on key issues. Her humanity served as a segway for Holloway’s first proposition: the need for a beloved community.
Holloway said that when speaking to administrators, staff, faculty, students and alumni, he’s brought up his aspiration of Rutgers being a beloved community.
“On all of those occasions, I have pointed out that a beloved community is not a place where everyone agrees with one another. That would be a boring community,” he said. “Rather, I have spoken about the value of a true marketplace of ideas and opinions, and the need, often an uncomfortable one, to listen to others with whom you may have (a) deep disagreement.”
Holloway said that people must acknowledge that they belong to the same community and share the same expectation to take care of it. He said he called for the University’s first internal equity audit, which consisted of surveying more than 150 administrative leaders about what the University can do to improve racial, social and economic inequities.
He said he also created a new position within the central administration that will be dedicated to improving upon these issues. Inaugural Senior Vice President for Equity Enobong (Anna) Branch must develop and implement a strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion at Rutgers, Holloway said.
When it comes to labor-management relationships at the University, Holloway said he is going to do everything he can to establish a better standing with one another.
“In my conversations with labor leaders, I have said the same thing: (We) need to find ways to work together. This means that management must listen to labor. But this also means that labor must listen to management,” he said. “We all need to step away from our past disagreements, recognize the extreme challenges of this specific moment and start laying the foundation for a new future.”
Holloway then discussed his second proposition: the relentless pursuit of academic excellence.
“I knew the University to be a top tier, major research university that had a proud history of being accessible to populations who had historically been overlooked by other institutions: first-generation students, immigrants, students from low socio-economic backgrounds, underrepresented minority students, students for whom English was not the primary language spoken at home,” he said. “These are the hard-working students who, on a daily basis, demonstrated that excellence could be found anywhere as long as an institution was willing to look for it.’’
Despite this, Holloway said Rutgers’ academic reputation is lagging. He said the University has an overly complex administrative structure that does not allow faculty to feel fully connected to the central direction of the institution. Through inter-campus initiatives, he said he wants to create bridges between faculty and the chancellor-led units.
Additionally, he said he was able to name Prabhas Moghe, provost and executive vice chancellor for research and academic affairs at Rutgers—New Brunswick, as the new Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Holloway said Moghe is charged with coordinating academic programs with the University’s provosts and chancellors. He will also chair the Promotion Review Committee, managing the tenure and promotion process at Rutgers.
“(Moghe) and I also agree that we have to be more focused (on) our recruitment and retention of leading scholars. One way in which we plan to do this is by securing the resources to develop opportunities for inter-campus exchanges through new academic initiatives, some of which emerged through the Big Ideas selection process that started before my arrival,” he said.
“There were many excellent proposals that emerged through that process, but we were compelled by projects that crossed unit boundaries and addressed major problems of our time. Research programs exploring artificial intelligence, climate resilience, public health and infectious disease will be areas where we pursue special funding opportunities," Holloway said.
Holloway’s final discussion point was focused on the issue of strategic institutional clarity. He said that during his time at Yale University and Northwestern University, he was able to describe what separates these institutions from others in only a few syllables. With Rutgers though, Holloway said there is no simple way to explain Rutgers’ complexity.
“This kind of narrative complexity encumbers my ability to tell a concise and effective story about the University to alumni, legislators, donors, investors, foundations and businesses,” he said. “Given that one of my most important jobs is to be the University’s chief fundraiser, this is a problem that we must address.”
Holloway said he created a new administrative position, senior vice president for strategy, which is occupied by Brian Ballentine. He said this is a four-year pilot project that will consist of a small team that will work with chancellor-led and central offices to develop and support the execution of major strategic plans for the University.
He said that creating this position is not his way of trying to control every aspect of the University but to identify what makes Rutgers special and find ways to amplify those attributes.
To conclude, Holloway said, it is a collective effort of the University to come together to write Rutgers’ destiny.
“If we can find ways to work together, to embrace the idea of a beloved community in which we acknowledge one another and respect our differences while still moving forward. (If) we can find ways to elevate our pedagogy and research practices as we seek to discover new solutions to challenging problems. (If) we commit ourselves to build an organization that embraces clarity and that is able to align itself with University goals … if we can do these things I know that we will be able to stand back and marvel at what Rutgers will have done for the state, the nation and the world,” Holloway said.