The Latest Indignity-The
Censure by the AAUP


Leonard Zwelling

         This is probably not a big deal but it is emblematic of
several problems that continue to plague MD Anderson.

         The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has
censured MD Anderson and its term tenure practice. This may have no bearing on the
future of faculty recruitment, student matriculation or the application numbers
of trainees to the various clinical programs at MD Anderson. It is very
possible that no one will care, but they should. But not for the reason that is
apparent. Rather, the censure unmasks those problems without solving or
resolving anything.

         The first problem this episode reveals is what happens when
you begin to work on the wrong problem. Term tenure has been a part of MD Anderson
since its inception and every faculty member who ever came to Anderson was
aware that his or her continued employment was not guaranteed, but performance
was demanded of all faculty and that performance would be judged by his or her
peers, subject to the approval of the President. That’s what R. Lee Clark
wanted and that’s the way it has been. 

recent years, the peers making judgments on term-tenure are the Promotion and
Tenure Committee members and for the most part, this system has worked quite
well. The term tenure system is NOT the problem. So problem number one is that
the AAUP has censured MD Anderson for the wrong problem.

second problem is the real one. The President abused his power not because he
rejected the judgments of the peers which unanimously approved the
reappointment of tenure to two members of the faculty which he is allowed to
do, but because he has ABUSED HIS POWER by being arbitrary in who gets tenure
and who does not and not owning up to his own prejudices. People he hired got
appointments they did not deserve. People he found on the faculty once he got
here were not renewed and neither action has been adequately rationalized at

is an example of a despot losing whatever benevolence he might have had and undermining
the culture of a well-functioning system by making who you know more important
than what you’ve done. It may be even worse. One’s promotion may depend on what
you can do for the President not what you have accomplished in the past 7

AAUP missed the point. Criticizing term tenure is frankly none of their business.  Who asked them? But if they wish to join the
voices of the MD Anderson faculty members who believe that two of their
colleagues have been dealt with unfairly and without explanation, then please

final problem that no one is addressing a is the amazing stubbornness
of Dr. DePinho. This tenure issue should have gone away months ago.  All he had to say when the original protest
arose regarding the unanimously approved but Presidentially rejected faculty up
for tenure was, “OK, I’ll give you this one. They are approved.” But, NO! He
had to be right and fully in control and abusive of his power. In this and in
all other things he has acted intransigently, insisting that only he knows what
is right and that, especially those experts here when he got here, have nothing to add
to his plans. This mess is 100% of Dr. DePinho’s making.

Don’t change the subject. This is about the abuse of raw power not the system
in which that abuse was both legal and sanctioned by the Chancellor. And while
we are talking about disappointments….

Sure everything DePinho did was legal. But was it wise?

Leonard Zwelling