Promotion and Tenure in the Kingdom     June 10, 2013

By Leonard Zwelling

            Another
day and another call about a tenure problem. I am really not sure why I get
these calls especially given that my own tenure is not to be renewed, but
nonetheless another horror story.

            This
time, a mid-career basic scientist with grants and publications was granted
tenure renewal by the PTC with a vote of 11 to 0 only to be denied the renewal
by the senior leadership.

            The
call I received was not from the faculty member but from an old friend (a
friend of long standing) who was appalled by this turn of events. My friend had
guided the faculty member in question to the Faculty Senate for help and
wondered what I thought. I told him to have the faculty member call me so that
I might give him a name of a lawyer, because as I understand the rules the
President is well within his rights to unilaterally refuse to renew the tenure
of anyone. The PTC, peers though they are, are advisory only to the President.

            This
is all because the MD Anderson Presidency is like no other presidency on Earth.
He’s no president. He’s the king (maybe one day a queen?).

            The
president owns all of our contracts, all the space, the labs, the clinics, and
the PRS.  R. Lee Clark set up the
place to be run by a benevolent dictator and the degree of that benevolence is
always changing to the point of having become whimsical although on a really
precipitous downward trend of late.

            Dear
faculty friends and foes alike, this is no democracy. There is no shared
governance, nor need there be. The President of MD Anderson is surrounded by
lawyers at his beck and call and armies backing them up in Austin (what do you
call the Texas Rangers, not the ones with bats, the ones with guns?). The only
possible force that can resist the president is the Board of Regents for sure
and the faculty perhaps. The former hired him and the latter are paid by him
even though it is the faculty that generates the money that the President/King
gets to play with. Talk about a lack off checks and balances and severe
conflict-of-interest. There is no oversight functions for MD Anderson other
than the ones in Austin. There are no shareholders, Congress or Supreme Court
to balance the president’s limitless power.

            It
should come as no surprise to anyone that we are where we are. The chief
executive has unlimited power only checked by the very people who hired him and
who want him to succeed regardless of how he chooses to pursue what he
determines to be success. The President does the hiring here. The President
raises and then spends all the money regardless of how it got here. He takes a
piece of all philanthropy even that from grateful patients. He summons people
to his office and, if he so chooses, cuts off their heads when he is not
sending one of his henchmen to do it for him.

            This
also means that every faculty member has to choose every day whether they will
abide by this despotism or leave. Most have stayed—so far.

            If
the rest of you are waiting for Dorothy and Toto to save you, forget about it.

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