From another distinguished faculty member and past Chair of the Faculty Senate:  THANKS MIKE!!!

After 40 years at MDA, I am now retired about 3 years yet keep in touch as the Editor of The Sentinel (the newsletter of the Faculty Senate).  The Sentinel takes time to publish.  After visiting with several faculty over last weekend and following events over the last year I have developed some thoughts which I think need to be expressed now.   Right now.   They are about the relationship of the President with the Faculty.

The following briefly describes the President’s activity to which the Faculty, and its Senate I believe might take exception:

1.  He is on a path to develop his own program on what he thinks is the best use of our resources to fight cancer.
2.  In order to do so he has overspent on his program causing financial issues.
3.  He has also abrogated academic freedom for those faculty members who have fulfilled their obligations to the University as they are being denied tenure renewal based on his judgment of the proper path to follow.
4.  He has applied the lash to clinical faculty to provide more income for his plan.
5.  He has denied incentive bonuses to the clinical faculty and given no salary increases for next year.
6.  His administration continues to deny that their salary increases have far outstripped those of the faculty in recent years.

What the faculty might find objectionable:

1.  The genetically tailored approach to cancer genetics is not new and is being actively pursued by the drug companies who have resources that would make any effort on our part appear as a pimple on the landscape.  Besides, the President’s previous recent activity in this regard (tivozanib, Aveo’s drug for renal cell carcinoma) has been marked by ineptitude and ethical questionability.  To carry on this path at the risk of reducing our present status in the cancer treatment community would appear to be folly.
2.  The overspending in the direction of his personal affiliations and friends from former institutions flies in the face of proper peer review of programs with finite resources.
3.  The loss of academic freedom of the faculty not only is the worst path for generating innovative research, but is also a major damper to recruitment of good faculty, and is contrary to the tradition of the University of Texas.
4.  The lash applied to clinical faculty opens major issue of patient safety, application of good medicine, and faculty’s ability to develop their academic careers.
5.  Despite the recent Letter to the Editor in The Sentinel, our clinical faculty DO care about income and the financial security of their families which are threatened by the President’s activities.
6.  Objections of the administration to the faculty salary report on disproportional salary increases to administration have once again been proven to be without merit.

At this point, I cannot see how the faculty can have confidence in the leadership of the present administration.  But what I think doesn’t matter.  The Senate is the platform on which that issue should be debated.  It is not the Senate leadership that can make this call.  The call must come from the rank and file, through their Senate representatives and onto the Senate floor.  The Senate leadership can lead, but it must know what its people want to do.  If the faculty are content with the present administration, then the present path is the way of the future.  Let your voices be heard.  Your leadership is listening.

Michael J. Siciliano, Ph.D., D. Sc. (hon)
Retired Kenneth D. Muller Professor of Tumor Genetics.

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