Dynasty, Dallas and DIRTT    June 3, 2013

By Leonard Zwelling

            Well,
there they go again. The rich are definitely different from you and me (F.
Scott Fotzgerald).

            In
a manner that even the Hollywood President Reagan and his free-spending wife
Nancy would have seen as unseemly, MD Anderson has spent a fair sum on decorating
and corporatizing the SCRB3 headquarters of IACS to match the opulence of Big Pharma
even as that very industry is trying to be rid of such extravagance. Pricey
conference tables, computer set-ups, credenzas with refrigerators, desks,
chairs and glass walls (had you ever heard of DIRTT?) have all been installed
into the South Campus Fortress (aka Southfork) of Solitude built with the
active approval of the Executive Vice Chancellor. The pictures and descriptions
are in the Cancer Letter. The claim is that $1.5M was spent on all of this and
in a preemptive email to the MD Anderson community from the Provost, this was
all justified and accounted for. The Chronicle’s article this morning was far more
concerning for what appears to be MD Anderson’s lack of how the optics would
play out than for the actual amount spent, whatever it really was.

            I
myself have been offered money to stop writing my blog so money is clearly on
the minds of the leadership. I did not accept the offer, but that did not stop
me from being tarred in an email from a leader of this very IACS to many prominent
members of the faculty that called me out by name.

            The
reaction I have most encountered among my friends and acquaintances in Houston about
all of this is, “Huh?  He spent all
that on the offices and he is not giving the clinical faculty merit pay? I
don’t get it”.

            Me
neither.

1.     This
spending occurs at a time when merit pay to the clinical faculty has been
reduced—to zero.

2.     The
true costs of so many things has yet to be revealed including the salaries of
IACS employees, the recruitment packages of new basic science chairs and
faculty, and the putative clinical care network that may or may not help our
bottom line.

3.     Hiring
freezes at the faculty and staff levels are going into place.

4.     Rigid
standards are being applied to all clinical faculty who must make up any leave
time, even if it is taken in fulfillment of an academic commitment such as a
national meeting or grant review session in Bethesda.

5.     The
Zayed Building, funded by an autocratic regime of highly questionable values
and ethics, is going up (e.g., Google “Zayed and anti-Semitism” if you have a
minute. See if you think the Zayed name belongs on the side of a Texas state
building).

            This
menu for us peasants suggests one fabricated by Marie Antoinette without the
cake.

            Since
the current leadership has arrived millions have been spent, yet a fully
allocated, fully accountable listing of the expenditures remains beyond the
glance of the faculty, the Faculty Senate and the staff. It feels as though
this new leadership is

placing its thumbs in our collective eyes and raising a
different finger to our conflict of interest and nepotism rules.

            Surely,
I cannot be the only person who feels this way.

            Anyone
wishing space on my blog who agrees or disagrees with me in a cogent, literate
and civil fashion may have it. 
Just send an email. 
Anonymity is fine if you must. 
Frankly, I wish someone would stand up and be counted who is equally as
outraged at this abuse of power as I am.

            And
oh yes. If the IACS crew wishes to contribute to my blog, they have a special,
open invite.  No name-calling
though. 

2 thoughts on “”

  1. Kind of reminds me of when Dennis Kozlowski took $16,000 of company money and spent it on an umbrella stand? "My parents spent $16,000 on a used car…you could put a lot of umbrellas in there!" (Lewis Black)

  2. Truly thoughtful response although giving me way to much credit for being either humble or modest. You may be the first to ever say that about me. Much appreciated though.

    Your quote was dead on. Thanks for that as well.

    Both the honeyMOON and the adjustment period are long over.

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