Since Santa Ono took office as the president of the University of Michigan 88 days ago, the football team beat Ohio State for a second time, the 2022 fall semester finished and Ann Arbor experienced a frigid winter blast. Ono’s presidency marked a hopeful change for many organizations on campus, but has Ono lived up to his expectations in his first semester as U-M president?
Rackham student Amir Fleischmann, Graduate Employees’ Organization contract committee chair, told The Daily he has overall hope for Ono’s administration, but some issues from past administrations still persist.
“Lack of transparency is something we associated with President Schlissel,” Fleischmann said. “We really were optimistic that President Ono would be turning a new page. So far, we haven’t seen that happen, but we think there’s still time and we generally look forward to working with (him).”
Fleischmann said he hopes Ono’s administration will work more with its students and faculty when it comes to labor and other University affairs.
“We really want him to work with campus labor, to work with students and faculty to manage the affairs of the University together, and create a fantastic place of learning,” Fleischmann said.
LSA senior Russell McIntosh and co-programming chair of the Black Student Union (BSU) told The Daily he does not want to see Ono forget about Black students at the University.
“We want President Ono to remember that Black students have real and pressing needs,” McIntosh said. “They’re extremely important. We want to see progress.”
On Nov. 1, the BSU released their “More Than Four” platform, which calls on the University to provide more support for Black students by increasing Black student enrollment, expanding efforts to combat anti-Blackness, improving DEI policies and investing in K-12 education to improve equity. Ono expressed support for the BSU in a tweet after flyers promoting the More Than Four platform across campus were torn down.
LSA senior Kayla Tate, BSU’s speaker, told The Daily she thinks one way Ono seems to be backing change on campus is by making promises directly to students.
“I know that one of his big priorities has been building trust and that he’s been meeting with a lot of students,” Tate said. “I definitely have been hearing a lot of promises about improvement.”
Tate said while she has hope for Ono’s future as president, she is still hesitant to blindly accept Ono.
“We’re hopeful, but not naive,” Tate said.
LSA junior Jacob Sendra, vice president of the U-M chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), said in an interview with The Daily he believes Ono’s first semester has gone swimmingly in terms of his commitment to the environment.
“I think we are very optimistic about the direction of his first semester, especially in regards to sustainability,” Sendra said.
The CCL focuses its efforts on enacting sustainable climate policy by fostering relationships with lawmakers. Sendra said he’s hopeful Ono’s tenure could increase sustainability efforts on campus because he seems willing to listen to student climate organizations.
“We feel like we have the potential to form a real fruitful partnership between our organization and a lot of other climate organizations on campus that we’ve been talking to, with this new administration that can bring about some real positive change in regards to sustainability,” Sendra said.
Kirsten Herold, president of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization and School of Public Health professor, told The Daily she thinks Ono’s first semester has gone fairly well and has been a welcome change from past administrations.
“He’s willing to have a more ongoing relationship with union leadership, which is something that has been missing from not just the most recent president, but several presidents before that,” Herold said.
Herold said she believes Ono still has a lot to learn and that she thinks the University community should give him more time to acclimate to the campus climate before criticizing him.
“(The University) is a very big place, and it’s a lot,” said Herold. “You know, he’s a smart, energetic guy, but there’s a lot to learn and get to know. And so personally, I feel that people who want to criticize him for one thing or another, it’s a bit unfair because he just got here.”
Central Student Government President Noah Zimmerman, an LSA senior, told The Daily he feels that while there are some areas of improvement for Ono, he believe’s Ono’s first semester went well because of his willingness to learn.
“He’s been great,” Zimmerman said. “Is there room for improvement? Yes. He has to learn how the University works still. And he’s still learning, still asking questions, but he’s asking the questions that need to be asked.”
CSG Vice President Jacqueline Hillman, an LSA senior, told The Daily she believes Ono truly cares about helping students.
“One thing that I can say very confidently is that President Ono genuinely puts students at the heart of every single initiative that he started to carry out,” Hillman said.
Hillman said she has hope for the future of Ono’s administration and believes Ono can help repair some of the damage done by past administrations to create a better future for the University.
“I think that his role at the University right now is really essential to rebuilding trust with the students,” Hillman said. “Particularly how responsive he is to different concerns, not in a defensive manner of defending the University or making excuses for some of the shortcomings in the past, but being more proactive and forging a new future with students and putting that really at the heart of his priorities.”
Hillman also said she thinks Ono has a desire to expand his understanding of campus life and experience.
“He genuinely wants to understand the experience of individual students,” Hillman said.
Daily Staff Reporter Miles Anderson can be reached at email@example.com.