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Rutgers University Gets Unexpected Response After Naming Its First African-American President

In a historic move, Rutgers University has named its first Black president.

The New Jersey college announced the appointment of Jonathan Holloway as Rutgers’ 21st president Tuesday, making him the first African–American to head the prestigious institution. The news was met with some criticism, however, as well as words of congratulations.

Jonathan Holloway
Jonathan Holloway, 52, is a former dean of Yale College and is provost of Northwestern University. (Photo: Northwestern University)

Holloway, revered as an “eminent historian and author,” was approved for the coveted role by the Rutgers Board of Governors, with consent from the university’s Board of Trustees, according to a press release. The 52-year-old has made his mark as provost and chief academic officer at Northwestern University and will now take his talents to Rutgers, where he’ll also serve as a distinguished university professor.

“Jonathan Holloway is an extraordinarily distinguished scholar with an outstanding record as an academic administrator at Northwestern and Yale [University],” said Rutgers Board of Governor’s Chair Mark Angelson. “He’s thoughtful, visionary, inclusive and decisive.”

“He leads with remarkable integrity, and is just the right person to build upon Rutgers’ long tradition as an academic and research powerhouse” Angelson added. 

Holloway is just thrilled to join the Rutgers family, where he’ll replace longtime President Robert Barchi. In a statement, he said that Barchi’s “extraordinary” leadership had put Rutgers among the best of the best public universities in the world.

Holloway added: “I was drawn to the opportunity at Rutgers University because of its amazing history, its foundation of excellence in teaching and its ambition to continue conducting life-changing research that improves our communities, our country and our world.”

Many took to social media to offer their well-wishes on his historic feat.

“Congratulations from an alum,” one Twitter user wrote. “And I wish you much success on a new journey.”

“Congratulations and welcome, Dr. Holloway!” said another. “I look forward to Rutgers furthering its success under your leadership.”

Among the congratulatory messages, however, were detractors taken aback by Holloway’s fair features.

“Why’d they pick the least black looking dude they could find?” one person commented.

“He is the whitest black person I’ve ever seen,” another chimed in, while someone else joked, “He diet black.”

One man opined: “This guy is about as black as Elizabeth Warren is native American. I need to see the 23 and Me cause I’m not buying that shit.”

Holloway is expected to take the helm at Rutgers in late summer. As a historian specializing in African-American studies with an emphasis on post-emancipation social and intellectual U.S. history, the seasoned professor said he plans to make history a focus as he prepares to lead the campus of more than 70,000 students.

Before his time as provost at Northwestern, Holloway was the first Black dean of Yale College. He’s also the author of two books: “Jim Crow Wisdom: Memory and Identity in Black America Since 1940 (2013)” and “Confronting the Veil: Abram Harris Jr., E. Franklin Frazier, and Ralph Bunche, 1919-1941” (2002).

Holloway will begin his new role as Rutgers president on July 1, 2020.

“Today marks the beginning of a brand new venture for my family,” he said in remarks to the boards. “I can’t wait to help write the next chapter in the history of this magnificent institution.”

Watch more in the video below.

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