University President Jonathan Holloway addressed the University Senate on Friday to discuss his priorities for the upcoming academic year and announce several key initiatives Rutgers plans on taking.
The main priorities he shared in the address included the future of work at Rutgers, University labor relations, a commitment to carbon neutrality and advancements toward greater faculty diversity.
Holloway began his second address to the University Senate by reflecting on his first year as president throughout the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as well as discussing what it means to be back on campus again.
“Even though this was not the start to my presidency that I envisioned, I enjoyed meeting the Rutgers community however I was able to do so,” he said. “And now that we are mostly back in-person, I am starting to take delight in this work.”
Holloway said the three core goals of his presidency he announced at the first address remain the same, with these goals being strategic clarity, community and academic excellence. He reflected on each of these goals by discussing the work the University has done throughout the past year in these areas as well as the work they will be doing this academic year.
In terms of strategic clarity, he highlighted certain administrative changes and the forming of relationships with Rutgers community members as well as local, state and federal leaders that have helped the University work toward this goal.
“Other achievements — like fossil fuel divestment and increased transparency on student fees — are important on their own but, taken together, underscore the importance of listening authentically to members of the University community and pursuing collaborative engagement wherever possible,” Holloway said.
He also discussed the importance of learning from the pandemic and creating a plan forward, specifically highlighting the need to reflect on work at the University and what changes need to be made.
“The Future of Work Task Force that is being led by Senior Vice President Vivian Fernández will deal not just with where and how we work but will set a course for how well we work and how well we help our employees thrive in a beloved community,” he said. “I expect the report from the Task Force to come to me with concrete recommendations next May.”
Holloway went on to discuss the topic of labor relations and the important role that Rutgers employees play at the University. He said the University could not have faced the challenges throughout the past year without its partners in the unions, stating that they helped to keep Rutgers functioning during such an unstable time.
With this, he announced the formation of an Office of University Labor Relations that will be led by David Cohen, associate vice president and deputy general counsel, and will focus on increasing efficiency and communications between the University and unions.
“It is my expectation that creating clearer lines of responsibility on the administration's side will minimize moments of contention and increase the opportunity for the administration and the unions to work together to build the best possible Rutgers for all,” Holloway said.
He said the University will soon release the first set of recommendations in the ongoing faculty pay equity process, which will provide more than $1 million in salary adjustments for supported requests.
In addition, Holloway announced that he accepts the Task Force on Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience’s recommendation for carbon neutrality at the University by 2040. He said the final report will be released this week, and an Office of Climate Action will be created to implement plans toward neutrality and other sustainability efforts.
“Achieving this lofty goal will involve every facet of the University — from students who ride buses, to how our administration purchases energy, to how our faculty teach and research climate change,” he said.
Another announcement Holloway stated in the address was the commitment of up to $45 million over the next five years by the Presidential Faculty Diversity Initiative to hiring diverse faculty.
“Being honest about our challenges with regard to building a diverse faculty is also important,” he said. “Some of those challenges reflect larger phenomena over which we have little control, but there clearly is more that we can do internally to get our house in order.”
Holloway also addressed Rutgers’ Division I athletic spending and stated his support for the athletes, administrators, coaches and the Big Ten Conference.
He said that despite recent concerns regarding Rutgers athletics finances, he found that the budget has been managed appropriately and has had consistently clean audits. Though, he said the current financial situation is not sustainable and reflects large issues among college sports as a whole.
“We will continue to fight to be competitive, we will not take shortcuts, and we will build a financial model that more accurately captures and explains the capital investment in athletics, the financial aid practices and the revenue streams associated with certain sports,” Holloway said.
He finished the address by discussing academic excellence at the University and once again reflected on where Rutgers is headed under his administration.
“As I have met students, faculty and staff in person I see that mission embodied in all of their collective work. It is inspirational. But we are not where we need to be. We can do better,” Holloway said. “In order to do so, we will have to take new approaches to how we work, how we govern, how we collaborate, how we discover, how we learn, how we consume … and how we trust.