NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – It took Jonathan Holloway less than a week in his position as Rutgers president to make his first major move, announcing at a news conference that the university will be employing remote instruction for the vast majority of its students in the fall.
Students pursuing disciplines that require the use of university facilities – engineering, performing arts, science, etc. – will wear face masks and maintain social distancing for in-person instruction.
Holloway said the safety of the students, faculty and staff has been paramount since the university’s doors were closed and online education was initiated in March during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But now we’ve had a lot of time to, the provosts in this case, have had a lot of time to train up their faculty in best practices, new best practices,” Holloway said. “I feel very confident we’ll be generating a very high-quality product as should be expected of us.”
In his first public statements since officially taking over as the first Black president in the 254-year history of Rutgers, Holloway admitted that “this isn’t the presidency I expected.”
When he was hired in January to succeed Robert Barchi, he couldn’t have known he would be assuming the reigns of a school embroiled in a health crisis.
The pandemic has also given rise to an economic emergency as Rutgers is expecting to experience a budget shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars because of a loss of revenue and a severe cut in state aid.
“It’s had a huge financial impact on the university, partly because it has a huge impact on the state and so our appropriations have been pulled back, Holloway said. “Now, we did benefit from the most recent budget passed that there’s a level of appropriation, not as much as we would like, of course. We’re very grateful for what we did get back from the state. But, there’s a very serious shortfall.”
The school has laid off several cafeteria staff and considered plans to fire 500 or so part-time lecturers. Holloway said he is in favor of setting a deadline for the university and labor union representing the adjuncts to come to an agreement.
“Since I have been brought into this conversation, let’s say mid-May as it pertains to these particular issues, what for me has become since it’s become my job has become frustrating is that we’ve been talking and talking and talking. I would love to see real concrete action,” Holloway said.
If there was one sliver of good news as he begins his four-year term, it's that the university is in a unique position to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the saliva test – lauded for its quick results and non-invasiveness – will allow for the school to do thousands of tests a day, if need be.
He also said the school will be aggressive in contact tracing.
On-campus housing across Rutgers will be extremely limited because of the need for social distancing and since most courses will be delivered remotely. Each chancellor will communicate how limited on-campus housing will be prioritized on each campus.
Essential student services, including academic, health and wellness counseling, will continue to be available to students remotely and complemented by in-person interactions as public health guidelines allow. Information technology infrastructure, libraries and other vital resources for students also will be available.
Decisions regarding the upcoming athletic season will continue to be guided by state requirements and policies developed by the campuses’ respective athletic conferences.
The suspension of campus events will remain in place this fall to limit opportunities for the virus to spread.
Holloway, who was hired in January during a joint meeting of the university's board of governors and trustees, served as Yale's first African-American dean.
He was most recently served as Northwestern University's provost, where he was charged with supervising the university’s educational policies and academic priorities, leading initiatives in undergraduate and graduate education, overseeing faculty appointments and promotions and managing the allocation of academic resources and preparation of the university budget.