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Friday, October 7, 2022

The University of Michigan has a New President Following an Unexpected Firing of the Previous One

On Wednesday, the University of Michigan made the announcement that Santa J. Ono, a biomedical researcher noted for his leadership on the issues of college affordability and action against climate change, will be the institution’s next president.

Dr. Ono, who is currently serving as president and vice chancellor of the University of British Columbia, was chosen after a months-long search to find a permanent successor for Mark S. Schlissel, who was terminated in January for what the university said was an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. Dr. Ono is currently serving as president and vice chancellor of the University of British Columbia.

The institution said that Dr. Ono would be the first Asian American to hold a leadership position in Michigan when they made the announcement of his selection. Although he was born in Vancouver to parents who had immigrated from Japan, he spent his childhood in Pennsylvania and Maryland and also has citizenship in the United States.

This year, the University of Michigan, which is widely regarded as one of the best public educational institutions in the United States, received an all-time high of 84,000 applications. However, Dr. Ono, who is 59 years old, will assume the leadership amid a divisive and challenging moment on university campuses, which are torn by cultural conflicts as well as arguments about the price of tuition. In addition to the controversy surrounding Dr. Schlissel’s dismissal, the university has been forced to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, divisive cultural issues, the dismissal of a provost due to sexual harassment accusations, and a sex abuse scandal involving a doctor, for which it has agreed to pay $490 million. All of these events have occurred in addition to the controversy surrounding Dr. Schlissel’s dismissal.

In an interview, Dr. Ono said that he wanted to make it his purpose to “work for the public good” and deliver a “uncommon education for the common person.” In saying this, he was adopting the motto of one of the university’s long-serving presidents.

Dr. Ono acknowledged the need for healing at the university in the wake of Dr. Schlissel’s unexpected resignation, and he expressed his desire to bring the institution’s professors, staff, and students closer together.

Dr. Ono, who identifies as a devout Christian, stated that he did not disagree with earlier statements from the university. One of these statements was issued by the university’s medical school on June 24, and it stated that Michigan “remains committed to providing high-quality, safe reproductive care for patients,” including “abortion care.” Dr. Ono said that he did not disagree with these statements regarding the highly contentious subject of abortion.

Dr. Ono is described as having “two usually contradictory personality traits,” according to Paul Brown, the chair of the Michigan regents. Brown said that Ono “encompasses two usually contradictory personality traits—he is open and empathetic and approachable yet at the same time analytical and entrepreneurial.” In a unanimous vote, the Board of Regents decided to provide their support to Dr. Ono.

Dr. Ono is largely recognised in the scientific community for his work with the immune system and illnesses of the eye; nevertheless, he also has a more lighthearted side. As a play on his initial name, he has been known to appear in public wearing a Santa Claus outfit. In addition to this, he is known to be an avid sports enthusiast, which is a benefit at a large Big Ten institution.

On a more serious note, he has revealed the difficulties he had as a younger person in terms of his mental health. Following the death of a student at the University of Cincinnati, where Dr. Ono had also served as president, he encouraged students who were struggling with mental illness to seek counselling. He discussed how he had attempted to overdose on cold medication and beer when he was 14 years old, and he attempted suicide again when he was in his twenties.

Dr. Ono has previously served as deputy to the provost at Emory University in addition to his leadership responsibilities in British Columbia and Cincinnati. He now holds these positions. Dr. Ono received his education at the University of Chicago and McGill University and has also held teaching positions at Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, and University College London.

Mary Sue Coleman, who had been Dr. Schlissel’s predecessor in the role before he took office in 2014, has been serving as the university’s interim president ever since Dr. Schlissel stepped down in January. Dr. Schlissel was the university’s president from 2014 until his resignation in January.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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