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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Shelton praised for decisiveness

    The honeymoon may be over at his formal inauguration this afternoon, but President Robert Shelton is likely to find fans in the audience because of the reputation he has earned in the past four months.

    UA students, faculty and administrators described Shelton as an open, decisive leader whose work so far has distinguished him from his predecessor, Peter Likins.

    During his first four months in office, Shelton cut $10.3 million in allocations and decided to withhold funding from construction of the Rainbow Bridge in the city’s Rio Nuevo project.

    Shelton froze preparations for the Rainbow Bridge, a proposed 370-foot-tall structure over Interstate 10 that would connect the two sides of Rio Nuevo, in August.

    Provost George Davis said the move was “”bold in all caps,”” because it had potential to upset so many people who were involved with the bridge project.

    Likins said Shelton has done “”everything right”” in his decision-making and praised his openness as a leader.

    Wanda Howell, a nutrition and life sciences professor and chair of the Faculty Senate, said she has yet to hear any complaints about the new president.

    For the most part, the faculty feels Shelton is even more open and transparent than Likins was, Howell said.

    Associated Students of the University of Arizona President Erin Hertzog said Shelton goes out of his way to get student input, even calling her on her cell phone to get her opinion before addressing certain issues.

    The speed at which Shelton makes some of his decisions is impressive, said Dick Roberts, budget director.

    “”Sometimes after three minutes of conversation, he’d say, ‘OK, I’ve got it,'”” Roberts said.

    Shelton’s confidence in his own understanding of an issue is what determines the pace of his decisions, Davis said.

    One of the larger changes Shelton made to the administration was the shift of the department of campus life, which housed both student affairs and human resources, from the president’s office to the provost’s office, Davis said.

    The decision makes Shelton less involved with the university’s internal minutia, which Davis said allows him to be more focused on broader policy issues.

    Likins said he structured the administration around the employees he wanted to work closely with.

    For example, Likins said Saundra Taylor, who directed campus life for 14 years until her retirement in July, was an extremely capable administrator, therefore, he appointed her to his cabinet.

    The previous structure was unique to the UA, but Shelton’s administration is much more similar to other American universities, Likins said.

    Compare and contrast

    Likins said it is hard to compare his leadership to Shelton’s because Shelton has only been in office for four months.

    The length of their time here is probably the biggest difference between the two men.

    Howell said it would have been harder for Likins to have been as bold in his decision-making as Shelton has because of campus politics.

    “”After you’ve been here a while, you don’t want to hurt people or be accused of playing favorites,”” Howell said.

    Given those factors, Howell said it is impossible for a president with a lot of years on the job to make any sweeping changes.

    Another key difference between the two is that, while this is Shelton’s first time being a university president, Likins held the post at Lehigh University before arriving at the UA.

    Howell said Likins’ previous experience had an impact on the way he listened to faculty concerns.

    “”Sometimes you got the impression Pete (Likins) was thinking, ‘I’ve been here before, and I think I know pretty much where this is going to go,'”” Howell said.

    Roberts said Shelton and Likins are more similar than they are different in their decision-making strategies, in that both are willing to listen to all sides of an issue before they make up their minds.

    Likins sometimes took longer making budget decisions, but Roberts said that was more because of the nature of the issues involved rather than because Shelton makes faster decisions.

    Hertzog, too, said she saw similarities between the two presidents, saying that Shelton, like Likins, is very student-oriented.

    “”Dr. Shelton is willing to look at not only funding what the university needs but what the students want,”” Hertzog said.

    Prelude to a presidency

    Although many might be surprised that Shelton would tackle such large issues so soon in his tenure, Roberts said the new president was well-informed by the time he took office.

    “”You can’t underestimate the work he did preparing for his position here,”” Roberts said.

    A few of Shelton’s headline-grabbing decisions were not as bold as they may have seemed, Roberts said.

    For instance, before Shelton froze its development, the Rainbow Bridge had run into several problems with the city of Tucson. The City Council had voiced concerns about both the aesthetics of the bridge and its $350 million price tag.

    “”The handwriting was on the wall,”” Roberts said.

    The $10.3 million cut in allocations was based on a “”working plan”” that Roberts said administrators had prepared for Shelton to decide upon during the summer.

    Allocations are intended primarily to provide new money for things like faculty research projects, so Shelton’s cut didn’t affect any permanent budgets.

    Howell said students shouldn’t feel any direct repercussions from the loss of allocation money, but a few professors whose research was affected might be grumpier than usual.

    Roberts said he whole-heartedly agrees with the allocation cut, which was intended to create an equilibrium so the UA would not be as heavily committed to the future.

    Likins said presidents make decisions with enormous potential to offend members of the UA community, and it’s only a matter of time before it happens for Shelton.

    Howell agreed and said while no faculty members have come to her to complain about any of these decisions, it might be that Shelton’s honeymoon is not yet over.

    “”He’s going to be allowed to make a lot of bold decisions (for now),”” Howell said. “”He’s not familiar enough to step on toes.””

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