The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
The issues of COVID-19 as a pandemic hit our shores at least early January. A laissez-faire reaction was promulgated nationally by our leaders. It seemed very easy to sit back, feel safe and do nothing.
University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins is not a do-nothing leader. He has dealt with the heart of the matter the entirety of his life as a cardiovascular surgeon and has an amazing résumé that includes being president and CEO Texas Medical Center in Houston; a professor and department chair of cardiothoracic surgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine; the founding director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute; president of the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation; and active cardiovascular surgeon for most of his professional life.
President Robbins’ positions previous to that of being the president of the University of Arizona required command decision making by the commander in charge. Much like the decision making required when dealing with a cardiovascular patient, these decisions needed immediate intervention. As the CEO of Stanford and Houston medical groups, he never had a chance to sit back.
His immediate and early response to COVID-19 allowed for a public national media presentation with an amazing result. On April 14, Robbins announced to our country and to the world that the University of Arizona has developed a testing program and the system to allow for the opening of the university and on-campus learning for students.
The University of Arizona was the first to announce that it would have a open campus for the school year 2020- 21. He was also able to tell our national media, parents and students that they would have a safe haven for open education at the university .
It is not difficult to determine by analyzing Robbins’ national media presentations that he and key administrative and medical staff immediately had researched and addressed safety requirements for the student body, faculty, staff and the public.
During Robbins’ media presentations he was able to disclose a huge endorsement by the state of Arizona. Gov. Doug Ducey was very impressed with what the university had developed and as a result the state of Arizona entered into a contract with the UA to provide the COVID-19 testing to 250,000 health-care professionals and first responders who were state employees. What an endorsement!
There are urgent times when the committee process and broad communications must be bypassed. Ask Winston Churchill. Command decision making, and leadership is the essence of survival.
Too often the committee system is asked to design a race horse and the result turns out to be a camel. As in this case, command decision requires production, absent any partisan considerations.
To be the first university to announce that it would have an open campus was critical for the planning. Parents and students need to make their registration decisions. It was critical to let prospects have information necessary for registering and for the financial survival of the school, as we have known, loved and experienced it.
Additionally, a thought I have had is well expressed by three letters to the editor in response to the article published May 24 in the Arizona Daily Star: “UA is criticized over deal with PR firm that has ties to conservatives.”
These letters questioned and criticized UA faculty members quoted for their comments suggesting that Cavalry LLC, a public relations agency specializing in media access, being inappropriate because of political considerations, because this firm has also represented conservative political interests. Forget that it was urgent to spread the news by the very best possible means to protect the earning capacity of those UA faculty members being interviewed.
Cavalry’s assistance with the media presentations by Robbins was superb and a game saver, especially regarding faculty and staffing economics.
President Robbins and key staff produced and unveiled a race horse.
Tucson attorney Burt Kinerk is a longtime supporter of the University of Arizona.
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