From replying to direct messages to reposting community content, University president-elect Santa Ono is social media savvy, and the student body is here for it. Since he was announced as the next president in July, Ono’s Twitter and Instagram have been filled with content about University events and student stories, making his passion for the community relatable.
Recent posts on Ono’s Instagram account include pictures and videos of the Michigan football team and students in Michigan Stadium. One video shows the Michigan Marching Band performing “Hail to the Victors” as students and football players sing along.
On Aug. 19, Ono posted a picture of his University of Cincinnati cello case in Vancouver International Airport, with the caption “Cello headed to A2.” Later that day, Ono posted a photoshopped version of the same picture, with the cello case sporting Michigan colors and topped with the iconic U-M football helmet, captioning the post “@swankywolverine has serious photoshop skills. Instant Wolverine cello case.”
University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald emphasized the casual nature of Ono’s social media presence.
“It’s important to note that the Twitter account that Santa Ono is using right now is a personal account,’” Fitzgerald said. “Santa Ono has long been a proponent of using social media as a communications tool to engage with students and other audiences.”
Fitzgerald also said the president-elect will likely continue to use his accounts in a similar fashion when his tenure begins next month, but the specific details on the topic have not been formalized yet.
Ono recently posted a photo of Michigan’s Central Student Government (CSG) President Noah Zimmerman and Vice President Jacqueline Hillman on his Instagram and Twitter accounts after his first official meeting with the administration. Ono said he was excited to work with Zimmerman and Hillman.
“Really enjoyed my first meeting with CSG President and Vice-President Noah Zimmerman & Jackie Hillman earlier today,” Ono wrote. “I am impressed with their energy, advocacy for students and CSG’s priorities. I’m looking forward to working with them and CSG soon.”
LSA senior Kareem Rifai is the communications director and spokesperson for the current CSG administration. In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Rifai said the CSG president and vice president are optimistic about the president-elect’s social media presence and support of CSG thus far.
“(Zimmerman and Hillman) think (Ono’s) social media presence … is really great because it seems like the President-Elect is doing a lot to engage with the student body directly,” Rifai said. “I would say both the president and vice president are really appreciative not only with the engagement that they’re seeing from (Ono) but also the efforts that he’s making to engage with the student body before he is officially the president.”
Engineering junior Hussain Lokhandwala said the president-elect’s social media presence is refreshing. In comparison to Ono’s predecessor, Mark Schlissel, Lokhandwala said Ono does a better job of conveying his personality.
“Especially in this new age of social media, as we as a society continue to grow, I think it’s important that our leaders grow and adapt to these technologies and features as well,” Lokhandwala said. “With Mark Schlissel, it felt like he was president but no one actually knew him. Because of (Ono’s) existing social media presence, you know more of who he is and what kind of a person he is.”
On Sept. 2, Ono posted a now deleted tweet ahead of the first home football game which used “his/her” instead of the gender-neutral “their” when referring to fans. The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) quoted the tweet, criticizing Ono for not using more inclusive language.
Rackham student SN Yeager, co-chair of GEO’s Queer and Trans Caucus co-chair, wrote the quote tweet. Yeager themself is nonbinary and felt excluded from the tweet.
“I was on my personal Twitter, and I saw that tweet,” Yeager said. “It’s not that his/her language is particularly like, ‘oh, that really hurts to read it,’ but you notice it because you know it doesn’t include you. So I saw Ono’s tweet, and I sent it to some other friends in the Queer/Trans Caucus … and one of the people in the group that’s a trans person was like, ‘you know, this might actually be something we should respond to.’”
Ono was quick to change his language and apologize to GEO, tweeting: “Of course you are right. I’ve corrected the tweet to say ‘their.’ Thanks for pointing it out.”
A new tweet now reads: “One of the beautiful aspects of the first home game is that faculty, staff and students from across the university and decades-long fans and new fans all come together to support the school team. I’m grateful for both longtime fans and the newest fan attending their 1st game.”
Yeager said they hope this interaction can be a first step in improving relations between labor unions and University administration.
“I also like this as a precedent of Ono as an incoming president being part of a conversation with labor on the university campus since labor unions represent a significant majority, or at least a significant portion of people at the University,” Yeager said. “That’s such an important group of people that need to be included in conversations.”
Daily Staff Reporters Carlin Pendell and Matthew Shanbom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.