2018 Speaker Introduction Series: Jonathan Holloway

Jonathan Holloway is the new Provost of Northwestern University. Before moving to Northwestern, he was the first African-American Dean of Yale College as well as a Professor of African American Studies, History, and American Studies at Yale University. With a specialization in post-emancipation United States History with a focus on social and intellectual history, he has done extensive research regarding the educational experience of students of color.

The topic of his talk is, "Political Correctness on the College Campus" and we had the opportunity to ask him a couple of questions surrounding his interests and passions.

TEDxNorthwesternU: What is TED to you?

Jonathan Holloway: TED is an opportunity to be reminded about the power of story-telling. We are social creatures and so much of our ability to navigate the world is shaped by the stories that we hear and the stories that we tell. Great stories told well capture our imagination and allow us to give voice to our ambitions, our fears, our humanity.

TEDxNorthwesternU: What is your favorite Ted Talk?

Jonathan Holloway: "Before I die I want to..." by Candy Chang.

TEDxNorthwesternU: What responsibility does a college have to monitor (or not) language on campus?

Jonathan Holloway: I think our colleges must play an important role in creating an ethos in a community that says “we are all in this together.” This doesn’t mean that we have to do everything together or even that we have to agree on everything—that would be boring!—but it does mean that we should be unafraid to say that healthy communities are those in which people accept the responsibility to be mindful of others, of different ideas, etc. If you establish this tone from the moment of arrival and if you reiterate this tone in campus communications then I think a university is doing the right thing in terms of articulating a value set. What happens next is up to the students. If students believe in the idea of the community then they will do the hard work of listening to ideas that aren’t their own, of supporting one another during moments of crisis. The university (by this I mean the administration) shouldn’t be “monitoring” language. That said, the administration is obliged to make it easy for the members of the community to report hate or bias so that the administration can respond appropriately. We have that system in place now and I think it works well. It’s quite different from monitoring, however.


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