Rutgers University is expected to name former Dean of Yale College Jonathan Holloway GRD ’95 as its next president on Tuesday.
Pending approval by the university’s governors and board of trustees, Holloway would be the first black president at Rutgers. At Yale, Holloway was the first African American to hold the position of Yale College dean, and he also served as master of Calhoun College from 2005 to 2014 while chairing the Department of African American Studies from 2013 to 2014. Holloway finished his stint as Yale College dean in 2017, when he became the provost of Northwestern University. According to current Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun, who replaced Holloway, Rutgers is gaining “a fantastic president.”
“Professor Holloway, who is both a friend and a role model, was one of Yale College’s great leaders, admired for his prominent scholarship as well as his ability to connect with students, staff and faculty,” Chun wrote in an email to the News. “Although he left three years ago, we all still feel his influence. He set high standards for us as scholars and members of this community, and they endure even today.”
As dean, Holloway oversaw the development of Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray Colleges — the first additions to Yale’s residential college system since the 1960s. As master of Calhoun College, a title which has since been changed to head of Grace Hopper College, Holloway regularly engaged with his students, frequently attending college events and was known to invite students into his home for Halloween.
Holloway’s time at Yale was marked by racial tension. While at Yale, he faced criticism for delays in responding to two racially charged incidents that occurred around Halloween in 2015 and received nationwide media attention. Specifically, he faced scrutiny for what students saw as a hesitation to respond to a “white girls only” party at Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, which denied entrance to a group of minority students. Around the same time, students criticized him for not promptly responding to a controversial email from Silliman College Associate Master Erika Christakis that supported students’ rights to wear culturally appropriative costumes for Halloween.
Holloway eventually responded to the incidents by holding meetings and sending campus-wide emails about the racial controversies. And in an impromptu gathering of African American students on Cross Campus, the dean addressed the crowd while standing on the Women’s Table, apologizing for his relative silence on racial issues and promising that he would do better.
Holloway also came under fire for his initial opposition to Calhoun College’s change of name. As the second black master of the residential college, which was named for anti-abolitionist John C. Calhoun, he wrote in an op-ed in the News that his tenure stood as “a powerful statement about the redemptive power of the American experiment.” He explained that he initially thought that renaming would prevent Yalies from coming to terms with the University’s “complicated and painful” record regarding racial politics. But in the same article, Holloway said he eventually came around to applaud the decision.
According to current Head of Grace Hopper College Julia Adams, Holloway’s “acute historian’s eye,” helped navigate the tension associated with the name change of Calhoun.
“Jonathan Holloway’s appointment is a transformational one for Rutgers, and the Council of the Heads of College, his former colleagues, are delighted on his behalf,” Adams wrote in an email to the News.
In an email to the News, University President Peter Salovey — who grew up in New Jersey — wrote about the regional importance of Rutgers, emphasizing its ability to motivate economic mobility and create jobs through its research programs. He added that he is thrilled to work with Holloway as fellow presidents within the Association of American Universities.
“I am completely delighted that Jonathan Holloway has been named the next president of Rutgers University,” Salovey wrote. “Jonathan was an exceptional dean of Yale College. He cares deeply about the educational mission within the research university, and his love for students is obvious to anyone who knows him. At Yale, he was an exceptional scholar, teacher and head of college before becoming dean. Rutgers will be well served with Jonathan at the helm.”
Holloway did not respond to requests for comment.
Students who interacted with Holloway knew him as a stickler for proper conduct. In a 2007 email following the flooding of a Calhoun bathroom, Holloway implored his residential college community to stop fornicating in the showers.
“Several times since the start of the spring term, some Hounies [students in then Calhoun College] have come across a couple having the time of their lives in a shower stall,” he wrote.
Holloway earned his bachelor’s degree in American studies from Stanford University and his doctorate in history from Yale, according to Northwestern’s website. As a professor of American studies and history at Northwestern, Holloway specializes in the post-emancipation history of the United States, focusing on social and intellectual aspects.
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