The
Dangers of Multiculturalism

By

Leonard
Zwelling

      This is not a diatribe against political
correctness although I have no love for the PC crowd. The multiculturalism I am
talking about here has nothing to with religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual
preference or country of origin. Rather it’s about institutional culture.

      I always liked Harry Gibbs’ definition of this
kind of culture: “it’s the way we do things around here.” I believe he is
exactly correct.

      Every organization, no matter how big or
small, has a culture that characterizes the manner in which people interact to
get work done and how relationships are built to advance the organization’s
mission. MD Anderson is no different than the Congress of the United States in
that both institutions have cultures. The difference is that in the Congress,
it is widely accepted that there are at least two cultures, one for the 535
elected members and one for the rest of the 20,000 people who work on the Hill.

      By contrast, MD Anderson and its ever-expanding
HR, Diversity and Compliance Departments would likely tell you that there is
one culture at MD Anderson, characterized by its core values of Caring,
Discovery and Integrity, all in service of its mission to eradicate
cancer—Making Cancer History. The truth is that nothing could be further from
the truth.

MD Anderson is no more Making Cancer History than
any other institution focusing on the care of cancer patients and on cancer
research. The behaviors exhibited by the Anderson leadership leaves a great
deal of doubt about the influence the core values have on the actual work done
at Anderson given huge conflicts of interest belying any demonstrable
integrity, repetitive bad behavior in the interpersonal sphere by its
leadership eschewing any trace of caring, let alone civility, and the highly
concentrated support for research in the hands of a few individuals suggesting
that discovery can be predicted with the precision of landing a man on the moon
when we all know it cannot.

      The multiculturalism to which I refer is
this. There are two sets of rules creating cultures at Anderson. One is for the
FORDs (Friends of Ron DePinho); the other is for everyone else.

      For years I had heard complaints other faculty that the
Head of the Division of Cancer Medicine played by one set of rules while the
other academic leaders played by another set. This was attributed to the close
relationship Drs. Mendelsohn and Hong cultivated over a tennis net. Clearly
this has been magnified as rule after rule governing faculty behavior in areas
of conflict of interest, self-dealing, nepotism and grants management have been
set aside for the first-family of Anderson while the rest of the faculty
continue to follow the ever-tightening culture of over-regulation. It’s bad
enough the Feds are driving everyone nuts with HIPAA, IRB and IACUC rules, but
MD Anderson seems to make up its own when it comes to grant financing,
accountability and now, it is rumored, even pharma industry support money for
clinical research. I guess the leadership doesn’t feel life is quite hard
enough yet for the faculty and they need to turn the thumb screws a little bit
tighter.

      There are definitely two cultures at
Anderson. One is for Dr. DePinho and his allies; the other is for everyone
else. The problem is that even the worst unilateral and uniformly applied
cultures are better at generating good results than institutional
multiculturalism is. All having two cultures does is convince one and all that
the system is rigged against them. Those who can leave will. Those who cannot
will continue in what they perceive correctly to be an unfair and hostile work
environment. Now THERE’S a recipe for success!

      Despite what so many leaders believe,
there simply cannot be two sets of rules in a well-functioning organization, one
for the leadership and one for the rest of the work force. This
multiculturalism is reminiscent of the cultures in totalitarian states from European monarchies to Middle Eastern theocracies, to the former Soviet Union, to today’s Russia
and now, it seems to the former “democratically-elected President” of the Ukraine
as well. He stole billions from his people necessitating their rebellion the
success of which is still tentative thanks to Putie.

      At times like these, when it seems that
fairness is on the wing and the bad guys have won, please remember Watergate.
Although it was a close call for democracy, in the end, that multiculturalism known
as the Imperial Presidency was ended without a shot being fired.

     

The processes to overcome the institutional
multiculturalism that plagues MD Anderson now and for the past dozen years or
so are in place. But it is up to the faculty, as I have said before, to move
from the aura of the impotent Obama Administration to that of the Ukrainian
people in this latest crisis in which dictatorial powers ran away with the
money.

      Once again, I plead to the faculty with regard to MD Anderson’s historical culture of equity, what Jane
Fonda implored of her scandal-plagued, ethically-compromised network leadership
team in The Newsroom: “Get it back!”  

Leonard Zwelling