Every generation of Americans has been called to sacrifice – and one of the great blessings of this country’s past is that, no matter the challenge, Americans have always risen to the task of protecting our nation.

Our present struggle against COVID-19 is no different. We each have a role to play. As chancellor of the Texas Tech University System, I want our entire Ram and Red Raider families to know my highest priority is the health and safety of our students, faculty, employees and surrounding communities.

C.S. Lewis said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” And so it has been with this virus.

We’ve taken quick action. Working with the presidents of our institutions, we canceled classes and transitioned to online education. We banned large-group gatherings on our campuses, and we will enforce Gov. Greg Abbott’s mandate to prohibit social gatherings of more than 10 people.

Working with the Big 12 Conference and Lone Star Conference, we have canceled athletics events for the remainder of the spring season. And recently, Texas Tech University, Angelo State University, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso have canceled the in-person May commencement ceremonies.

We know how hard our students have worked to earn their degree, and all of us are disappointed that we won’t be able to celebrate that achievement as we do traditionally. We know how hard our student-athletes have prepared for competition, and all of us share in the disappointment of games not played and seasons cut short.

These were not easy decisions, but they were the right ones for the health and safety of our students and their families. As a medical doctor who practiced for more than 30 years, and as the former president of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, I want to underscore how important it is that Texans listen to the medical experts and government authorities. This is particularly important when it comes to the preventive recommendations such as social distancing policies. 

Let me be clear: we haven’t seen anything like COVID-19 in our lifetimes. It’s tempting to blow it off, be complacent, or play fast and loose with the rules. As a doctor, a father and a Texan, I implore you to take this situation seriously. Isolate yourselves, and when in public keep your distance from other people. Wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your face. Every one of us that takes these steps makes it possible for our state to overcome this pandemic.

Remember it’s not just about you. COVID-19 is especially malicious because it is transmitted so easily. We take protective measures in order to protect the lives of the elderly and the most vulnerable folks among us. Even the young and healthy are now filling up emergency wards, proving no one is invincible in the face of this virus.

By now, you’ve heard the phrase “flattening the curve.” This refers to the idea that by all of us self-isolating, we reduce the number of infected people. Flattening the curve is important. It ensures that our hospitals have enough ICU beds, ventilators and other equipment to serve the sick. The steps we take today can help our front-line medical staff do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

Defeating this pandemic requires us all to take it seriously… and to make sacrifices. A friend of mine in Dallas put it well: Either we choose selfishness or sacrifice. In this, we’re no different than all previous generations of Americans who were called to make that same choice.

Many were asked to give their lives. Now it’s our turn. It’s not always easy to do the right thing, but it’s always right to do the right thing. So do something today that your future self, and others, will thank you for.


Dr. Tedd Mitchell is the fifth chancellor of the Texas Tech University System. He previously served as the chief executive of the Cooper Clinic in Dallas.

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