Rutgers University Chancellor Nancy Cantor told staff and students in an email she “hoped to remain” at the institution to continue her decadelong work, a day after Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway told staff he’ll be replacing her next summer.
The news of Cantor’s departure was met with dismay from Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, state legislative leaders and civic groups in the city, who wrote to Holloway calling the decision a “grave error.” Two dozen faculty members from Rutgers-Newark also sent Holloway a letter on Thursday, expressing shock at the plan for Cantor’s departure and demanding to know why she was being replaced.
“We chose Nancy Cantor to lead us; she has done that, and more. Surely it is not unreasonable for us to expect basic accountability from our president as to why she is suddenly no longer fit to be our chancellor?” the group of distinguished professors, department heads and associate professors wrote.
Dory Devlin, a spokesperson for Holloway’s office, wouldn’t say why Cantor’s contract would not be renewed after it expires in June. Devlin said it was a personnel matter and “wholly inappropriate to discuss.”
But Cantor’s email to faculty and students — her first public comments since news of her leaving was announced Wednesday — signaled her departure was not voluntary.
“I had hoped to remain here to continue advancing the expansive work we’ve done together over the past decade to build and strengthen civil and social infrastructure, but I am confident that the durable partnerships we’ve built are well-positioned to grow and that our university and our community can continue to thrive,” she wrote in her email.
In announcing Cantor’s departure, Holloway praised her tenure in Newark. He touted her expansion of financial aid programs to diversify the student body, her launching of a collaborative art space called Express Newark to foster the city’s creativity, and her leveraging of the university’s resources to provide data-based approaches to address public safety in Newark.
Though Baraka and the letter’s other signatories said Holloway was looking to “discard” Cantor, the university president praised the departing chancellor in this week’s announcement.
“There may be no other chancellor in the country as committed to the impact that a university can have on its host community as an anchor institution,” Holloway wrote. He said the university would launch a national search for her successor.
Holloway also responded to Baraka’s letter, which was co-signed by Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz, Assemblymembers Shanique Speight and Eliana Pintor Marin, along with the CEOs of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark Museum of Art and the Victoria Foundation.
He said the university would replace Cantor with someone who could continue and build on her work for the campus.
“We will insist that the new chancellor exhibit the same kind of commitment to community partnerships and empowerment that Nancy Cantor has demonstrated,” he wrote. “I recognize that she will be a very difficult act to follow, but the initiatives she has launched and championed, and her example of public engagement and partnership, will give the incoming chancellor a terrific model to guide their own leadership of Rutgers-Newark.”
Cantor will take a one-year sabbatical at her current salary next June and will have the option of returning as a university professor with tenure, the university said.