Jonathan Holloway is the new president of Rutgers University. Insofar as one can tell from the quotes in Amanda Hoover’s NJ.com profile of Holloway — “Rutgers is named for a slave owner, but school’s first Black president says the name will stay” — his views resemble those of a conventional academic bureaucrat except in one respect. Holloway asserts that the university’s name isn’t up for changing even though it honors a man who owned slaves (more here).
Perhaps it is Holloway’s previous deanship at Yale that reconciled him to the depredations of leadership at a university saddled with a disreputable namesake, but Holloway is somewhat adamant about sticking with it. “The reason we’re not going to change the name is that names have value that exceed someone’s existence,” Holloway said. “If I were to walk around feeling bludgeoned by every name I see, I couldn’t get out of bed.”
He adds this: “My existence, my humanity, my complexity, cannot be reduced by the fact that Rutgers was a slave owner, that he could not imagine me. That’s his problem.”
Reading the profile of Holloway, I was reminded of the concluding couplet in Robert Frost’s elusive poem: “No one can know how glad I am to find/On any sheet the least display of mind.”