I have invited many to write on my blog with few if any volunteers until now. My entry on the Faculty Senate has generated a few responses and as promised, I will post them.  Here’s the first from David Farquhar.  LZ

A Thoughtful Response from the Former Chair of the Faculty Senate

Len makes a lot of good points in this post and, in my opinion, a couple of not so good ones.      

The Senate doesn’t need a love letter.  It needs a call to action.  Based on discussions with many former colleagues, I agree with Len’s assessment that senior administration has absolutely no respect for the current Senate or its leadership.  Let’s not mince words here. The current Senate leadership is widely considered to be weak and ineffective.  In some respects, that is not surprising.  The powers that be have shown an arrogance and venality that is frankly alarming in a university healthcare setting.  Fear runs rampant throughout the institution.  Those who offer constructive criticism are considered “losers” and soon are relegated to the slag heap.  That is the hallmark of a malignant work environment.        

Consider now Len’s 6-point advice to the Senate. 

1.     Forget about fighting for reconciliation with the administration. Until you convince them that you really are the voice of the faculty, they can ignore you without consequence.

Could not agree more. 

2.    Every week, the ECFS should craft a message that is disseminated to all senators.  At every divisional and departmental meeting both the senators from that academic entity and at least one member of the ECFS should attend and report out on the message of the week and the progress being made on any key issues.

Every week is too often.  As Karen pointed out, the membership of the ECFS have jobs and it is not easy to get around to this on a weekly basis.  Besides, most issues have to be batted back and forth, often for several weeks, for a tentative plan of action to emerge.  The ECFS should not give their hand away prematurely. 

3.    These issues should be prioritized by both the ECFS and the Senate at-large and remain items on the Senate’s agenda and that of every relevant department or division until they are resolved.

 Good suggestion 

  4.    Spend the year consolidating real power not by doing surveys of morale and expecting anyone in the administration to respond, but by ascertaining what the faculty would really like to see happen, then prioritizing these “asks”, and develop positive ways to accomplish the goals which would then be presented to the administration in a public forum.

It’s certainly important to know what the faculty would like to see happen.  I think a faculty forum to address this issue is critical.  However, I cannot agree with Len’s notion that the Senate should not pursue morale surveys.  Such surveys provide important feedback on whether MD Anderson is considered a healthy work environment.  Designed appropriately, the surveys should also provide insight into what the faculty would like to see happen.  Whether senior administration responds is a different issue.  If they chose to ignore morale surveys then they need to explain why to UT System and the Board of Regents.  There is another important reason for conducting morale surveys and that is to guide the faculty on appropriate action if morale continues to decline.  Let’s suppose, for the sake of discussion, that morale continues its downward plunge at the Cancer Center.  Were I in the role of Senate Chair, I would lobby vigorously for a vote of no confidence in MD Anderson leadership.  Were this to prevail, it would prompt banner front page headlines in several influential local and national media outlets, as well as the scientific press; this, in turn, would have a profound influence on UT System leadership, the Board of Regents and the Texas legislature.  Expressed another way, to ignore such a vote would be irresponsible insofar that it would risk serious and lasting damage to the reputation of the world’s most famous Cancer Center, the crown jewel of the UT System.  No, that would not be tolerated. 

5.     Stop considering the administration your friends. You are in a political struggle and you are the loyal opposition. That does not mean that you and the administration cannot work toward common goals. It does mean that you should never assume that your goals and those of the administration overlap.

Great advice. 

6.     Stop negotiating with yourselves. Forget about what’s wrong. There’s plenty. What would RIGHT look like?

No, I would not forget what’s wrong.  If you don’t know what’s wrong, you can’t fix it.  Of course, it’s also important to know what’s right.   

David Farquhar

Emeritus Professor

Leonard Zwelling