Deba Dutta to step down as UM-Flint chancellor


UM-Flint Chancellor Debasish Dutta is leaving to take a position as senior adviser to the president at the University of Illinois.

President Santa J. Ono announced Dutta’s departure July 18 in a universitywide email message and said he would name an interim chancellor in the coming weeks while he and U-M’s leadership team “carefully consider the next generation of leadership for the Flint campus.”

Photo of Debasish Dutta
Debasish Dutta

The university will launch a national search for UM-Flint’s next chancellor in the coming months, Ono said. Dutta’s resignation is effective Sept. 15.

“Chancellor Dutta has been a strong advocate for the UM-Flint campus even before he was appointed chancellor in the fall of 2019. He accepted this key position knowing the challenges that lay ahead — even before the pandemic disrupted everything,” Ono said.

“He has maintained that commitment and strongly advocated for the transformation of the UM-Flint campus to better align the academic programs with the skills sought by employers throughout mid-Michigan. I applaud him for this essential work that seeks to create new opportunities for UM-Flint students and the entire Flint community.”

Ono said the change in leadership at UM-Flint will require a pause in the transformation work that had been announced for the campus.

In September 2022, then-President Mary Sue Coleman charged Dutta with developing a strategic plan to transform UM-Flint and address “unprecedented challenges,” including declines in enrollment and six-year graduation rates.

“The Board of Regents and I remain firmly committed to a brighter future for the Flint campus. I want to assure you the transformation work will move forward once we have a new campus leader in place,” Ono said in his message.

In a separate email message, Dutta thanked his UM-Flint colleagues for their commitment to the campus community and for “working together on a transformation plan for the UM-Flint campus to better align academic programs with job opportunities for our graduates.”

“Transitions are always difficult. But I believe this change at the UM-Flint campus will provide an opportunity for a new leader to take all of the work that has been done up to this point and mold it into a brighter future for UM-Flint and the greater Flint community,” he said.

Dutta began as UM-Flint chancellor Aug. 1, 2019, after previously serving as chancellor at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and in administrative positions at Purdue University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He began his career at U-M as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in 1989 and moved through the ranks to professor in 2000.



  1. Mary Jo Kietzman
    on July 19, 2023 at 6:59 am

    Maybe this can be the beginning of real change for our campus. After the downsizing and buyouts, by 2024 we will have only one Literature professor in the Department of Language and Communications. Currently, I am teaching an online Shakespeare class to 30 students, many of whom are in the technology and business fields. They seem genuinely surprised to discover–as if for the first time–that a play like Hamlet IS essential for helping them process how they feel about their lives in a society broken into specialized pieces where human beings are becoming puppets of more powerful forces. The play helps them exercise moral judgement and trains them to assess problems and imagine possibilities.
    In Flint and across our region (Saginaw Valley and Thumb) we have a shortage of teachers, dying public schools, and shrinking populations. The young people here deserve a university that offers a diverse curriculum with foreign language, literature, anthropology, philosophy, religion, and ecology–the full palette of options. We should not be reducing our offerings to a focus on a few vocational programs in applied technology and healthcare.
    If we take away their options, students won’t know what they are missing, but educators should not prejudge or limit the lives of any students, especially those from the working-class whether urban or rural.
    That was Chancellor Dutta’s narrow vision for his “transformation.” He was not invested in Flint, and he didn’t want to learn about our city and region. I saw him this summer walking my dog in my neighborhood and was genuinely surprised. His big house always seemed empty. “Hello Chancellor!,” I hollered; he didn’t even break his stride. Let him walk right on out of Flint. I really hope that President Ono and the Regents choose a man or woman who wants to put down roots here, work in the community, and listen to the voices coming out of this place. For too long upper administrators take positions in Flint as stepping stones for their own careers. Please prioritize finding a real public servant with breadth of vision and imagination. Everyone in these parts knows that monoculture in whatever world we happen to be talking about–industry, agriculture, neighborhoods, or education–depletes resources in and on the ground.

    • Marcus Wolverton
      on July 19, 2023 at 11:48 am

      Hi Professor Kietzman! I am very happy to see your response as I had attended quite a few of your literature courses during my tenure at UM-Flint. I’m very sorry to hear about the state of your department today and I hope the new chancellor will see the value of the Liberal Arts in modern education.

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