To the NPC of Democratic Socialists of America, the publishers of Democratic Left, and the Rutgers University community,
Central NJ DSA and North NJ DSA were alarmed to see that Democratic Left, a publication of the Democratic Socialists of America, recently published a piece by Rutgers University president Jonathan Holloway, a man notorious for fighting against union demands.1While this article has since been taken down and replaced, we are calling on Democratic Left to publish pieces by Rutgers educators and workers who are involved in its union contract campaigns. It is imperative that the DSA uplift the voices of working people, especially those challenging men like Holloway and the values they uphold. Going forward, it is vital that the NPC and Democratic Left do not undercut the labor and housing work of local chapters.
Central NJ and North NJ DSA are deeply involved in solidarity work with the Rutgers University unions, like AAUP-AFT, PTLFC-AAUP-AFT, BHSNJ-AAUP, URA-AFT, and other unions that represent the thousands of workers at Rutgers University that are working without a contract. Some of those workers are our own members. As an employer, Rutgers University has failed to bargain in good faith or offer dignified terms for the workers.
The decision to feature Holloway’s introduction to the 2023 edition of The Souls of Black Folk is a severe misjudgment on behalf of the editorial team at Democratic Left, in light of Holloway’s obstinate resistance to recognize the validity of union organizing and workers’ demands. As president of Rutgers, Holloway has been breaking the power of campus unions, even recently releasing a statement pitting workers against students and their families. He has been running the University for the benefit of predatory developers and business interests, without regard for the needs of the workers, students, or surrounding communities. None of these despicable actions are new – Holloway has established himself as an anti-union zealot as a dean at Yale, before his time at Rutgers, dragging with him a history of brutal and unnecessary layoffs.
Throughout the union contract campaign at Rutgers, our chapters have been striving, alongside the unions, to bring together faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members into a broad coalition against Holloway’s vision of a corporate university. Furthermore, we have united unions’ struggle with local tenant struggles, and built strong connections that we will leverage in our chapter’s long term work. President Holloway is a representative of the system we stand against. In direct opposition to the coalition-building work of our local chapters, we were shocked to learn that Democratic Left chose to publish an article written by Holloway and centering his views on socialism on the same day as the Rutgers’ unions rallied in Newark. This decision undermined the important solidarity and coalition work of our chapters. It is evident there was little research done into Holloway’s work before Democratic Left published this piece and the negligence to properly evaluate the credentials of a writer and historian shows a profound lack of coordination between National DSA and local chapters.
On February 28th, the faculty union held a rally in Newark to denounce the university administration for their greed and intransigence, to show unity among workers and the broader community, and to begin the union’s historic strike vote. It was a powerful event, the culmination of many months of enduring work, and DSA showed up in force to connect with fellow workers and offer our vision of a just and dignified society, a society in which educators and workers at Rutgers are compensated for their labor that sustains the university as a place for education and learning. Holloway’s vision, alongside others in his administration, is to find ways to pay workers as little as possible, all the while speaking about fairness in the most superficial terms.
President Holloway, who receives a salary of $1.2 million dollars, is hypocritical for reflecting on the legacy of socialist luminary W.E.B. DuBois while the workers he is responsible for negotiating with struggle to pay their bills.2 In his 1918 article, “The Black Man and the Unions,” DuBois lauds the power of unionizing. “Collective bargaining has, undoubtedly, raised modern labor from something like chattel slavery to the threshold of industrial freedom, and in this advance of labor white and black have shared.”3
It was a mistake to invite Holloway to provide the introduction to The Souls of Black Folk because of his long history of failing to live up to the standards set forth by DuBois’ work and writings and by the other authors involved, who themselves represent a radical and more just vision of society. It bears reiterating that Holloway’s trail of destruction for everyday working people at the institutions he’s been part of extends far. Examples once more include Holloway’s disastrous tenure as Dean of Yale College during the 2017 hunger strikes of Yale graduate workers demanding better wages and working conditions, as Provost of Northwestern University amidst the 2019 “discussions” surrounding racist visiting lecturer Satoshi Kanazawa, and currently President of Rutgers during the Covid-19 pandemic when he laid off more than a thousand union workers as part of a broader “austerity” while him and others retained their own exorbitant salaries.4Resisting calls for divestment at Rutgers, Holloway has also strengthened institutional ties to Israel and the American military-industrial complex through a tech partnership with Tel Aviv University, opening the door to taxpayer funded weapons research.5 Holloway fails to achieve the wisdom and fraternity championed by DuBois. If he wants to live up to the socialist and anti-imperialist vision of DuBois, Holloway must settle a fair contract with the workers, and end the displacement and exploitation of the local communities.
For these reasons and more, we are reiterating our demand for President Holloway to quit pitting worker power against a prosperous Rutgers University and working class New Jerseyans and for Democratic Left, part of our own organization, DSA, to publish the insights and analysis of Rutgers workers.
Central New Jersey DSA
North New Jersey DSA
- https://www.dsausa.org/democratic-left/another-black-history-month-ends-what-will-we-do/ ↩
- https://www.nj.com/education/2020/01/12m-a-house-and-a-car-what-are-the-other-perks-the-new-rutgers-president-will-receive.html ↩
- https://teachingamericanhistory.org/document/the-black-man-and-the-unions/ ↩
- https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/09/opinion/why-yale-graduate-students-are-on-a-hunger-strike.html, https://dailynorthwestern.com/2019/01/24/campus/holloway-defends-academic-freedom-saying-kanazawas-removal-would-make-matters-worse/, https://www.nj.com/opinion/2023/01/rutgers-prioritizes-union-busting-and-gaslighting-public-health-care-workers-opinion.html ↩
- https://bdsmovement.net/news/academia-weapons-and-occupation-how-tel-aviv-university-serves-interests-israeli-military-and ↩