The White Paper: The White Album of the Faculty Senate
Only Better

By

Leonard Zwelling

         The White Album
was the only Beatles double album filled with new material. It was released in November 1968 and I remember that well. It probably
contained about one album’s worth of great stuff and one album of OK stuff. Some
people think it is the Beatles’ ultimate achievement. I vote for Rubber Soul and Revolver, their 1965 and 1966 masterpieces that were the soundtrack
of my senior year in high school. Lucky me!

         The Cancer Letter
has published the Faculty Senate Executive Committee White Paper documents that
are labeled Draft and Confidential. How does Paul do that? No, he didn’t get it
from me as I don’t have it, but now, I can read it. And on first blush, it is
magnificent! Better than The White Album
for sure.

         What I am going to write about is the 7-page Advisory Paper
Executive Summary as the other documents are far too lengthy for me to digest
and this summary is superb.

         The summary is in 7 sections with descriptions of problems
and suggested remediation for each. The administration would do well to follow
these recommendations. If it did, it would totally change the complexion and
culture of Anderson from an ever more centralized autocratic patient care
assembly line to a true university-based academic cancer center. In other
words, Back to the Future.

I.           
Trust: To be blunt, the faculty has none in the Executive
Leadership and with good reason. There is no shared governance and there must
be.  The standards for launching new
initiatives submitted to the NIH as a grant ought to be the same ones used by
which new proposals by the Leadership are evaluated and funded. Like income
inequality in the United States, the problem of behavior and rules adherence
inequality among the faculty must be addressed, and particularly the inequity realized
when comparing how faculty and Leadership are treated. The idea of upward
evaluations is a good one, but it would better if they were not needed (I’ll
write about Bureaucracy—later). Personally, if I were among the Executives, and
I read White Paper, I would resign, and lest you forget, I did as head of
clinical research oversight in 2004.

II.        
Shared
Governance
: Governance at MD
Anderson is really in the hands of about 5 people. Even Division Heads and
department chairs have been marginalized in matters of budget and power. The
Faculty Senate has never had its rightful place on the organizational chart and
it should. The Leadership needs to acknowledge that there is an org chart and
it is not just themselves on it. And administration is a service function and
junior faculty count. Amen!

III.    
Mission
vs. Margin
: MD Anderson has
become addicted to money. Time to go to Rehab-yes, yes, yes! Academics and
research need to return to the center of life at Anderson while maintaining the
excellence of patient care. This section is full of great ideas to make the
faculty more productive and undoubtedly would raise morale dramatically. These
should all be adopted.

IV.     
Communication
and Transparency
: Let’s face
it, Ron and the crew have a failure to communicate. Do you know what the heck
he wants besides to be important? Neither do I. I am not optimistic about
seeing improvements with the current Leadership left in place, but it’s
worth a try, I guess, if they follow the instructions of this White Paper.

V.        
Bureaucracy: As someone who was accused of being overly
bureaucratic for years, I am a little sensitive to this, but that doesn’t mean
the faculty are wrong about its excess even when I was the object of their scorn. At
least I tried to limit my imposed bureaucracy to that which the feds made me
do. The current Pickens group makes it up as it goes along. Do what the white
paper says. Reduce policies, vice presidents, associate VPs, and red tape.
Increase accountability.

VI.     
Compensation: This is simple. The administrators make too much and
the faculty not enough. Fix it!

VII.  Conflict Resolution and Retaliation: The seventh word says it all—fear. That’s MD
Anderson, making fear routine. The
bullying, the self-aggrandizing, the self-dealing, the nepotism, the sheer
arrogance of the Leadership must end and if this crew cannot make the lift,
dump them. This should be a no brainer.

So
to summarize this excellent report, the faculty of MD Anderson deserves
Leadership competent to lead.  This group
of Leaders does not have the right stuff. I respect the Senate enough to say
give their suggestions a chance, but I seriously doubt this Leadership team is
capable of implementing these changes as it would mean completely altering its
relationship to the faculty—namely, they need to have a relationship with the
faculty, something they don’t seem to think they need at present.

To
the Leadership, “Happiness is a Warm Gun.” To the faculty the refrain I hear is
“I’m So Tired.” The White Paper is a final plea for some semblance of sanity by
the faculty to the Leaders. The Leaders need to say, “I Will.”

Leonard Zwelling