Guiding values focus on creating a culture of community, excellence and clarity

In his first address to the University Senate, President Jonathan Holloway pledged to follow three guiding values as he steers decision-making at Rutgers during a challenging time: The ideal of a beloved community, the relentless pursuit of academic excellence and the need for a clear institutional strategy.

“It is important that I share these propositions with you now because they will inform decisions that we will make in the coming years,” Holloway, who began his presidency on July 1, told Senate representatives of faculty, students, staff, administrators and alumni.

Holloway reflected on the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the start of his remarks as “one of our own,” a Rutgers Law professor from 1963 to 1972. “It may sound strange to our ears today, but Rutgers can take pride in the fact that the university extended an offer to a woman in the first place, as there were fewer than 20 female law professors in the country at that time, in 1963.”

He praised Ginsburg for her sharp legal mind, arresting wit, unyielding dedication to justice, especially for those overlooked by history. Ginsburg’s keen ability to work with others who had starkly different views and her commitment to equity and justice exemplify characteristics of the kind of beloved community Holloway said he wants Rutgers to be.

“A beloved community is not a place where everyone agrees with one another,” said Holloway. “That would be a boring community. Rather, I have spoken about the value of a true marketplace of ideas and opinions, and the need, often an uncomfortable one, to listen to others with whom you may have deep disagreement.” 

A beloved community seeks talent everywhere and is intentionally diverse, the president added. He cited the equity audit of the central administration undertaken by Anna Branch, recently named senior vice president for equity, who is charged with developing and implementing a strategy for diversity, equity and inclusion across the university.

Holloway also called for a new way forward on labor-management negotiations.

“I have made it clear to my senior management team that I want to approach negotiations from the standpoint of collaboration,” said Holloway. “Any negotiator who is driven by a desire to win is not paying attention to the fact that we are all on the same team. In my conversations with labor leaders, I have said the same thing: we need to find ways to work together.”

As he learned more about Rutgers amid the presidential search process, Holloway said he was confounded by the fact that while academic excellence abounds at Rutgers, the university’s academic reputation does not fully reflect that “we have amazing faculty who populate some of the strongest departments of their kind in the nation” and other impressive attributes.

“I see it as one of my key jobs to do everything possible to change that dynamic and to help my peer presidents and provosts realize that Rutgers is a major player that they should respect,” he said.

Restoring the chief academic officer's position to where it belongs is critical to that effort, Holloway said, noting Prabhas Moghe is the newly appointed executive vice president for academic affairs. He is charged with coordinating academic programs throughout the university in collaboration with provosts and chancellors, as well as overseeing the university’s online and continuing education. 

The announcement this week of a $15 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice at Rutgers, he noted, will be a scholarly project that spans the university with centers based on the New Brunswick, Newark and Camden campuses.

Lastly, Holloway addressed placing Rutgers on a defined and measurable path forward.

“We must commit ourselves to developing a new culture that is committed to strategic clarity,” Holloway said. “Linguistics and organic chemistry can be confusing, but Rutgers as an institution can’t afford to be.”

To help achieve this, Holloway appointed Brian Ballentine as senior vice president for strategy. He will work across central and chancellor-led offices to move forward projects that bring coherence to university strategy and strengthen the university’s position in New Jersey and in the national higher education landscape.

“I believe that I am in service to the university wherever and however it is expressed,” Holloway said. “And while I certainly have my own views about the university's values and the need to develop agendas that are aligned with those values, my first impulse is to identify those attributes that make Rutgers special and to do everything I can to amplify them.”

Read a full transcript of the president's first address to the University Senate.