Paranoia Strikes Deep


Leonard Zwelling

strikes deep

Into your
life it will creep

It starts
when you’re always afraid

You step out
of line, the man come and take you away

From “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield, written by
Stephen Stills

         I find myself
constantly explaining the situation at MD Anderson to people from outside of
Houston (and even a few from within the city). Either they have had heard of
one or another of the recent leadership problems in the media here or learn from members of
the faculty about these traumas. They simply cannot understand how a place
ranked number one for cancer care in the country can be struggling so in its
social interactions between faculty and administration. The most frequent
question is why?

         The lyrics by
Stephen Stills that I first heard when I was in college pretty much sum up the
problem. People are afraid.

         They are afraid
for their jobs and livelihoods for so many prominent members of the MD Anderson
community have vanished seemingly overnight that you would think the Gulag
would be pretty crowded by now, but have more grant support than those left on
Holcombe. Those remaining are afraid of being tarred as being uncooperative or
not collegial simply because they do not agree with the scientific direction
taken by the administration or its strategy of overt commercialization and its
associated scourge of conflict of interest. Some people actually do not want to
turn over their tissue samples and data bases to the FORDs. In some cases
people have been physically afraid for their safety for they felt assaulted by
one of the members of the Pickens Picker On-ers. Yes, Admiral McRaven, there
continues to be a problem with bullying here on Holcombe, but if you wish to
combat this with denial, be my guest. Didn’t work with Al Qaeda, and won’t work
with the FORDs.

         I have also heard
more than once that people who work at Anderson just want to spend their time
from 9 to 5 (or less if possible), do their jobs and get out at the end of the
day and more importantly at the end of the week. No one seems too excited about
working there any longer.

         So people are
“always afraid” and “paranoia strikes deep” because most people are quite aware
that if they “step out of line” they will be “taken away.” The message of the
FORDs is to “change people” and most people don’t want to change or be changed.
In the past, MD Anderson was the place you came to expand your imagination not
subjugate to that of another. For a place one of whose core values is
discovery, this is hard to fathom, but it is nonetheless true. Discovery means
change, but only the FORDs are the agents of change. The rest of the faculty
appear to be the victims of change. Only the Ronald has the inherent right to
be right. Everyone else is “always afraid.”

         Back in the 1960’s
when this song made its debut, it was fear of the police that prompted the
lyrics by Mr. Stills. Now in 2015, it is the fear of the administration in
Pickens that prompts the latest round of paranoia. In both cases, the fear is
well-founded and in both cases it will require group action on the one hand and
individual protest on the other to resist this intolerance and despotism.

         So please do
support the Faculty Senate in its many efforts to make life better for all
faculty members. But also make your complaints known to the Chancellor. He
cannot act unless he is aware of the problem and this is one of those times
where individual protest may trump group action.

         Once again I
reiterate what is printed on the steps in the New York City Subway.

         “If you see something, say something.”

Leonard Zwelling