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Who is Jonathan Holloway?

When Jonathan Holloway, a scholar of African American history, was appointed as the 21st president of Rutgers in 2020, he said one of his goals was to foster “a beloved community,” a university culture defined by tolerance, diversity and the spirited exchange of opinions and ideas.

“If ever there is a time when people need to be authentically listened to, it’s now,” he told Rutgers Magazine shortly after taking office. “So, it’s important to me to be graceful. To grant grace.”

His goal has been tested ever since.

Even before the war in Gaza brought upheaval to college campuses, Dr. Holloway was under scrutiny for several unpopular moves. Thousands of instructors went on strike to demand better pay, leading Dr. Holloway to threaten a court order to force them back to work. He also approved a tuition hike and removed a popular administrator, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

Last September, in a symbolic move, the Rutgers University Senate voted no confidence in his leadership following the months of tumult. The Rutgers Senate is a democratically elected group of faculty, staff and students; it does not, however, have the power to remove the president.

This spring, Dr. Holloway decided to strike a deal with pro-Palestinian demonstrators to end their four-day encampment at the university’s New Brunswick campus. Some charged that he had rewarded demonstrators after they disrupted campus life and chanted anti-Israel slogans that some view as antisemitic.

Dr. Holloway has defended the agreement, even though he acknowledged that “some of the statements that I have heard are disgraceful and have no place at a university.”

“The result of our actions was a peaceful return to the normal course of business,” he told the school’s Board of Governors on May 6.

Before becoming Rutgers’s first Black president, Dr. Holloway was provost of Northwestern University and a professor of history at Yale for nearly two decades. At Yale, he also served as dean of Yale College.

President Holloway’s scholarly work focuses on African American history after the civil war, and he has published several books. One of his Yale courses on African American history is available online.

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