Yale Daily News

Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway GRD ’95 appeared on the News’ September shortlist of possible Yale presidential candidates.

Holloway, like other figures on the News’ list, has strong ties to Yale and a robust track record of leadership posts in academia. However, his colleagues at Rutgers have raised concerns about his leadership.

Four years after receiving his graduate degree in history from Yale in 1995, Holloway joined the University as a faculty member before becoming a full professor in 2004, At Yale, Holloway became the second Black person to become Head of Calhoun — now Grace Hopper — College and was chair of the African American Studies department. In 2014, he became the first Black dean of Yale College. In 2017, Holloway stepped down to become provost at Northwestern University before being appointed the first Black president of Rutgers University in 2020.

Last September, the Rutgers University senate — which is made up of over 130 students, faculty, alumni and staff — passed a vote of no confidence in Holloway after a historic triple-union strike. Holloway, supported by the university’s board of governors, remained in the position. The News spoke to three members of faculty at Rutgers, who criticized Holloway for his handling of faculty unions and lack of communication with his university community.

Holloway declined the News’ multiple requests for comment. 

“He has consistently shown contempt for and disdain for the people who do the work of the university,” Jim Brown, professor of English at Rutgers, wrote to the News. “He has shown little interest in the working or learning conditions of students, staff, and faculty at all Rutgers campuses.”

Since the vote of no confidence, Holloway stopped showing up at University senate meetings, drawing the ire of some faculty members. 

Holloway’s desire to become the president at Yale has been “out in the open for months” among Rutgers faculty, according to one faculty member who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation from the administration.

“He just seems to want to wash his hands at Rutgers and move on,” the faculty member said. “I think he would see Yale as the pinnacle of his personal achievements. So yeah, I don’t think he wants to stick around at this public university any longer than he has to.”

Rutgers faculty on strike

By last spring, faculty at Rutgers had been working without a union contract for almost a year. 

The main issue discussed during prolonged contract negotiations was the recognition of part-time lecturers, for whom the union demanded equal pay for equal work, according to Robert Scott, a Rutgers anthropology professor who also serves on the university senate. These efforts, he said, were met by “stonewalling” from the administration.

Jim Brown, a professor of English at Rutgers, served as president of one of the chapters of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT union until last year and sat on its bargaining team. According to Brown, Holloway’s administration did not take negotiations seriously.

“His administration’s inability to negotiate contracts is largely due to his willingness to allow a team of lawyers and bureaucrats to run the university,” Brown wrote. “He played no role in negotiations. I sat at the table for a year, and I never saw him.”

As the union contemplated striking, Holloway threatened to seek a court injunction to break the strike and force faculty back to work. When, on April 10, faculty went on strike, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy had to intervene, asking Holloway not to seek an injunction. Scott and Brown attributed his decision not to seek legal action to external pressure on the president. 

Scott recalled that at one point during union negotiations, Holloway created an anonymous survey form for students to report faculty members who failed to show up to class due to the strike. 

“This is especially important for the thousands of students who are finishing their academic careers at Rutgers and are only a few weeks away from earning their degrees,” Holloway said when he contemplated legal action against strikers. 

After five days on strike, with the governor’s mediation, the university achieved an agreement with its union, which the latter pronounced as its victory. The new contract, ratified by the university unions in early May, included a 14 percent raise for full-time faculty. Adjunct faculty — as part-time lecturers are now classified per the contract — now earn close to equal pay for equal work with full-time professors

However, Brown wrote that after the strike ended, the administration continued treating workers “with disdain,” citing the layoffs of adjunct faculty at Rutgers-New Brunswick’s writing program, who he said “worked at Rutgers for more than 40 years.”

“His administration is increasing class sizes to enact these layoffs, which is bad for students and faculty,” Brown wrote. “He would likely say that this is a financial decision made because of finite resources, but he never seems to care about those finite resources when it comes to funding athletics or the pet projects of administrators at all three campuses.”

No confidence vote in Holloway’s leadership

On Sept. 22, the Rutgers University senate expressed no confidence in Holloway in an 89-to-47 vote.

The decision came on the heels of the faculty strike, as well as a controversial decision in July to merge two of the university system’s medical schools and the ousting of the Rutgers-Newark chancellor in August.

When Holloway’s administration started the merging of two medical schools, many professors were “reticent or opposed,” Scott said Then, the administration ignored the concerns among faculty and senate’s request to pause the merger and proceeded with the plan.

Last August, Rutgers also announced that it would not renew the contract with Nancy Cantor, a chancellor of Rutgers-Newark, prompting a backlash from faculty. Despite Holloway’s announcement praising Cantor, the university administration never explained the reasoning behind their decision not to renew a contract with her.

The resolution of a vote of no confidence on Holloway  refers to Cantor as “a highly effective, popular, widely-respected and nationally recognized campus chancellor.” A faculty at Newark campus, who spoke on a condition of anonymity, told the News that faculty will “never ever forgive” Holloway for dismissing her.

Brown also criticized the president for overlooking the Rutgers-Camden campus, where Brown teaches. 

​​”He will talk about how many times he has visited the campus. He will say that he has not forgotten about us,” Brown wrote. “But the policies remain the same. The campus with the largest proportions of first-generation students and non-white students does not get treated equitably.”

Brown said that Rutgers never allocated resources to Rutgers-Camden and that the campus “never felt valued.”

Following the senate’s decision, Holloway stopped coming to senate meetings and sent a letter announcing a new model of University engagement where he would meet with students and faculty in small “salons,” which became the subject of a running joke among faculty members, according to Scott.

“It had an elitist ring to it,” Scott said. “Go to Yale, take your salons to Yale.”

Scott added that he’d meet the news of Holloway being named president of Yale as a sign of relief and a chance to start anew at Rutgers.

On Friday night, Holloway arrived for University President Peter Salovey’s farewell dinner at the Schwarzman Center — one day before the Yale Corporation’s April 20 meeting. Holloway said that he was attending the dinner to “honor” Salovey.  

If selected for the role, Holloway would become the University’s first president of color.

Yurii Stasiuk is a Managing Editor of the Yale Daily News. He previously covered City Hall as a beat reporter. Originally from Kalush, Ukraine, he is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College majoring in History and Political Science.
Benjamin Hernandez covers Woodbridge Hall, the President's Office. He previously reported on international affairs at Yale. Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, he is a sophomore in Trumbull College majoring in Global Affairs.
Ben Raab covers faculty and academics at Yale and writes about the Yale men's basketball team. Originally from New York City, Ben is a sophomore in Pierson college pursuing a double major in history and political science.