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UBC announces new president after abrupt resignation sparked governance crisis

Dr. Santa Ono poses for a portrait following an event at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, June, 13, 2016. Dr. Ono was named the university's 15th President and Vice Chancellor.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
June 13, 2016 - 1:00 PM

VANCOUVER - The University of British Columbia has named its new president following a tumultuous year that began with the abrupt resignation of former president Arvind Gupta.

Santa Ono, who was born in Vancouver and has served as president of the University of Cincinnati since 2012, will take the reins at UBC amid ongoing criticism of its governance and handling of campus sexual assaults.

The renowned biologist told a packed crowd in the university's law school that joining UBC was a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" he could not pass up and he vowed to be a leader who serves and listens to faculty, staff, students and alumni.

Ono, the son of a Japanese-born professor who taught math at UBC in the 1960s, said he wasn't scared off by the events of the past 10 months at the university.

"In fact, it made me even more interested in coming here to contribute to this university that is so dear to my family, and to doing everything in my power to help the institution become even more outstanding," he said.

"The engines are revving again, and the University of British Columbia will continue to move from excellence to eminence, I have absolutely no doubt."

Board chairman Stuart Belkin praised Ono's extraordinary life and accomplishments and said he was unanimously appointed to serve a five-year term at UBC.

Ono will earn $470,000 a year in the role.

The 53-year-old holds a biology degree from the University of Chicago and an experimental medicine PhD from McGill University. He has held prestigious positions at Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, University College London and Emory University.

The University of Cincinnati board voted unanimously in 2012 to appoint Ono president after he served as provost for two years.

Ono drew praise last month when he spoke frankly about his mental health history at a fundraiser, telling students that depression can be treated and mental illness shouldn't be stigmatized. He revealed that he first tried to kill himself at 14 and that his second attempt came in his mid-20s.

When rumours of his move broke on social media on Sunday, many at the University of Cincinnati appeared dismayed. One Twitter user wrote: "President Ono leaving legitimately has me depressed. Man means more to this university than anyone."

Ono appears to be a social media master himself, with more than 72,000 Twitter followers.

UBC has been gripped by a governance crisis since last August, when Gupta quit last summer after one year into a five-year term, setting off a flurry of speculation.

Board chairman John Montalbano resigned last October after an investigation into a professor's claims that she was intimidated after writing a blog post suggesting Gupta lost the "masculinity contest'' at UBC.

The faculty association passed a resolution declaring it had lost confidence in the board in March, after the university accidentally released emails that revealed board members had held secret meetings with Gupta leading up to his departure.

UBC has also faced accusations it delayed taking action on multiple sexual assault allegations against a male PhD candidate. Interim president Martha Piper apologized to the women affected by the case and the university recently released a draft of its new sexual assault policy.

— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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