Who Do You Trust?

By

Leonard Zwelling

            At
the Faculty Senate meeting on June 18, the issue of the discrepancy between the
acceleration rates of salaries for faculty vs. administration was again
addressed. In all candor, I have no idea why. Randy Legerski clearly and
succinctly once again laid out the data that indicate the incremental rate of
salary increase among administrators is steeper than that of the faculty.
Wow!  That’s a surprise! Not!

            That
Dr. Bogler stumbled through what can only be described as Power Point hell to
present data that he had yet to fully analyze did not help promote clarity as
to whether or not the administration agrees with the Senate’s analysis and
whether or not they even care to do anything about it if they do agree. I know
that I don’t care, because the same people who set the salaries of the faculty
set the salaries of the administrators. That would be the administrators. So
did you really expect another result? Why get worked up about a preordained
conclusion?

            The
current President of MD Anderson makes about twice as much as the last guy.
Things should be twice as hopeful under his leadership. Faculty should be
clamoring to come here from around the country. Those already here should be
thrilled to stay. But that is not at all what is happening.

            Once
again, during a survey done Tuesday evening at the Senate meeting, we learned
that significant numbers of faculty do not expect to be working here long term.
This is absolutely unheard of in my almost 30 years at MD Anderson. What the
heck happened?

            What
has happened here is what has happened in the country as a whole as the
Republican pollster Frank Luntz pointed out on Morning Joe on June 19. People
do not trust those in authority to do the right thing, or to be guided by
accepted principles of decency and service. Rather moral relativism prevails.
People are in it for themselves. It doesn’t matter whether it is Wall Street
CEOs, members of Congress or leaders of academic institutions like NYU where
loans are being given (and forgiven) to the high rolling professors and deans to buy million
dollar SECOND homes (front page of NY Times on June 18).  Even long-standing faculty at Anderson
of considerable accomplishment and who I admire greatly grudgingly express the
wish that they could or had negotiated for packages the size of those given to
some of the current new recruits at Anderson. But I like to think that these
friends and colleagues believe that this profligate spree of budget-busting
self-interest is just as unseemly as I do. Just because you get away with it,
doesn’t make it right. Whatever happened to trust in leadership?

            We
have devolved to what TV physician Greg House once said and which now could be
a modern MD Anderson mantra: “There’s no I in team. There’s a “ME” though, if
you jumble it up.”

            I
walked away from another Senate meeting wondering what we were doing there
besides stating the obvious and complaining about it. Oh yes, there are task
forces established for 6 different issues and meetings with the administration
focused on improving things, but in the end the institutional leaders appear
for all the world to be focused on themselves and their personal comforts (like
furniture) rather than the patients (are they still patients or are they
customers now?) and the faculty members and staff who actually make the place
run.

            Just
to be certain that the leadership demonstrates its contempt for the Senate and
its inability to adequately communicate, they send us Dr. Bogler, a seemingly
nice fellow, who always seems defensive and exasperated while wading into
graphic data like it is quicksand in which he is drowning while trying to
analyze it as he sinks and disappears into its projected rainbow bars and
circles.

            If
the leadership really wants to make some progress with this faculty and move
the institution from an ever-growing sense of entropy, they might consider:

1.     Owning
up to the errors in judgment and commitment they have made. Apologies would be
welcomed, too.

2.     Clearly
stating what they are trying to do to correct these errors and how they will
pay for it.

3.     Clarifying
what the role of each person at Anderson in this effort is supposed to be and
if it is not to be, they should be as clear with those whom they are willing to
leave behind by reversing affirmative PTC decisions as they were with me when
they told me I could no longer contribute to MD Anderson (direct quote from
SVP).

4.     What
is the strategy under which we will operate and how do each of the moving parts
like those in New Jersey and Arizona fit in?

5.     What
is the true cost and benefit of implementing this strategy and what are the
metrics by which we will know that we are or are not on track?

6.     Elucidate
the value of those huge salaries to the strategy implementation and to the
mission, because personally, I don’t quite see that this President is twice as
good as the last guy. Do you?

Leonard Zwelling