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EDITORIAL: Rutgers' problems run deeper than Holloway

While Holloway has faced harsh criticism over his leadership, his entire administration must be held accountable for their role in community dissatisfaction

Last week, the University Senate declared no-confidence in University President Jonathan Holloway, but will this actually change anything for the Rutgers community? – Photo by

The University Senate's no-confidence vote against University President Jonathan Holloway has drawn significant attention from both the Rutgers community and beyond. Many close to home, though, are not surprised.

Holloway is infamously regarded as the president who, during his tenure with Rutgers, failed to "attend a single bargaining session" in the months leading up to the faculty strike, threatened an injunction during said strike and green-lit a merger between the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick without the Senate's approval.

It is no secret that Holloway has thinned the trust between the University community and his administration, but the Senate's recent vote casts light on more than just its lack of faith in his leadership. Holloway has now become a convenient scapegoat for much wider and more complex problems with how the University is run.

In an interview with The Daily Targum's news desk, Holloway explained that his role is largely "externally facing," in which he tries to "raise Rutgers' flag ever higher." In another interview with Politico before joining Rutgers, Holloway emphasized that his focus here would be on strengthening the University's ties with those in New Jersey public office.

Ultimately, Holloway approaches his presidency with the goal of securing more funding from the state and stands as a figurehead to represent the University. This makes him an easy target for criticism over Rutgers' financial and operational situation. While, as president, he will always be regarded as at least somewhat responsible for these issues, it is important to remember that he is not the only one to blame.

The University Senate, a body of representatives for Rutgers composed of "faculty, students, staff, administrators and alumni," meets nearly 10 times over the course of a semester to discuss ongoing University matters and advise the administration. At the body's most recent meeting, it cited one of its greatest concerns in the vote against Holloway as the 6 percent raise in tuition.

But the Board of Governors, a 15-member Board that excludes the voting power of the University president, unanimously approved the $5.4 billion budget that resulted in this increase. Holloway, along with the two faculty members and one student member of the Board, were not given any voting power, nor are they ever in votes conducted by this group.

Holloway undoubtedly has influence over University operations, but it is unproductive to solely blame him for Rutgers' financial troubles when there are clearly more people and a nebulous infrastructure involved in the decision-making. In reality, Holloway delegates much of his tasks among his 18-person cabinet and more than 100-person administrative council, including J. Michael Gower, who serves as Rutgers' executive vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer.

The University Senate's no-confidence vote displays Rutgers' dire need for change, but it does not actively work toward or facilitate any kind of substantial change. The vote is a largely performative gesture that further digs at Holloway, the face of the institution, rather than at the flawed, bureaucratic structure that is actively tarnishing the educational experiences of thousands.

To top it off, out of the more than 240 Senate members, only 136 voted on this matter — 89 of which voted no confidence, as reported by the Targum.

On the one hand, the no-confidence vote and Holloway's absence at the meeting have caught the attention of major media outlets, which does serve an important purpose in casting light on the dissatisfaction and distrust among the Rutgers community. On the other hand, this attention should be a wake-up call for structural change, not just a passing moment of bad publicity for Holloway that will be forgotten in less than a week.

At large institutions like Rutgers, the problem is never just one person. Universities nationwide are structured to function as money-making corporations instead of academic powerhouses. Rutgers is no exception to this system, and it would be naive to assume that simply replacing or continuing to criticize Holloway would amount to any real change.

We must instead focus on rejecting the current administration's way and work toward implementing a more interconnected, transparent structure for the University to lead and honor its students and staff — the heart of the University — as fairly and as much as possible.

Rutgers' administration is made up of many people, some of whom probably urged Holloway to threaten injunction, insisted on raising tuition, pushed the merger and neglected the Senate. The blame is not just on Holloway but on the entire administration and the structures that perpetuate a disconnected, capitalistic manner of running a University that should instead prioritize its students, faculty and academics. 

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 155th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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