Decision to end Cantor’s tenure at Rutgers-Newark met with dismay, protest from Newark-area leaders

Rutgers President Holloway praises Cantor’s work as chancellor in note that also said school will not renew her contract at end of summer of 2024

Nancy Cantor will not be retained as chancellor of Rutgers University – Newark when her contract ends at the end of the summer of 2024, Rutgers University President Johnathan Holloway announced in a note to the Rutgers community Wednesday.

The decision was met with strong opposition from Newark-area leaders, who have worked closely with Cantor during her nearly 10 years at the helm of the university.

Holloway said a nationwide search for a successor would begin immediately.

The decision was criticized by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and other area leaders, in a letter to Holloway. The letter said Cantor’s leadership strengthened the college-going culture in Newark with scholarships, free counseling to Newark youth on the college application process, increasing Newark resident enrollment by 60%, and research on housing affordability.

Baraka wrote:

“To discard Chancellor Cantor is taking two steps backwards,” he said. “It disrupts a long and hard-fought progress that Newark is journeying on. It flies in the face of the collective work that we have been doing many times with Chancellor Cantor’s insistence, her commitment and sheer will. Therefore, I, along with the following group of leaders dedicated to improving our city, implore the university to reconsider its decision to replace Chancellor Cantor. It would be a grave error.”

The letter was signed by numerous Newark elected officials and leaders, including Democratic legislators state Sens. Teresa Ruiz and Assemblywomen Shanique Speight and Eliana Pintor Marin, all of whom represent Newark.

New Jersey Performing Arts Center CEO John Schreiber, Newark Public Schools Superintendent Roger Léon, Newark Museum of Art Director and CEO Linda Harrison and Newark Opportunity Youth Network founder and CEO Robert Clark were among others who also signed on.

Holloway, in his note to the Rutgers community, did not indicate if Cantor was being let go — but offered her huge praise while writing her service “will conclude.”

In a note entitled, Celebrating Nancy Cantor’s Outstanding Chancellorship, Holloway wrote:

“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,” he wrote. “In carrying out this commitment, Dr. Cantor has offered a sterling example of how to make higher education more inclusive and more publicly engaged.”

Holloway credited Cantor for championing many transformative initiatives at Rutgers-Newark to advance social mobility, publicly engaged scholarship and collaboration among anchor institutions, including:

  • A new Honors Living-Learning Community that expands the metrics used in identifying talented candidates by going far beyond GPAs and SAT scores. The HLLC, which emphasizes “local citizenship in a global world,” has been featured in the New York Times and celebrated as a national model.
  • RU-N to the Top, a financial aid program that has made an exceptional Rutgers education available to a much larger pool of individuals and families, resulting in even greater diversity in the Rutgers-Newark student body.
  • Express Newark, the remarkable arts collaboratory located downtown in the historic Hahne & Co. building, bringing university and community together around civic dialogue, artistic discovery and expression and new talent development, as well as in celebration of the rich diversity of the city and university.
  • Newark City of Learning Collaborative, of which Rutgers is a vital partner with numerous local organizations in a mission to ensure that all residents of the city have access and opportunities to attend, afford, and complete college and find good jobs.
  • Newark Public Safety Collaborative, a citywide effort based at Rutgers-Newark that is using data- and evidence-based approaches to increase the safety and security of Newark neighborhoods.
  • The Fiserv-Rutgers Program for Inclusive Innovation, a joint project with one of the world’s leading financial services companies to increase both diversity and innovation in the field of financial technology.
  • Newark Anchor Collaborative, the public-private partnership among the city’s anchor institutions that she co-founded and co-chairs, which is setting a national standard for cross-sector action to advance equitable economic growth.

Cantor, 71, came to Rutgers-Newark in January 2014, having served previously as as provost at the University of Michigan, chancellor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and chancellor and president at Syracuse University.