Time Out for Super Chicken

Time Out for Super Chicken


Leonard Zwelling

         While I do take the accuracy and sobriety of this blog to
heart, all this news about people treating other people badly is getting me
down. You, too? OK, how about some levity. That must mean it is time to go back
to Dr. DePinho and it is.

         Along with the Chronicle’s coverage of the trial of the
month (not the century, please), the newspaper reported on the continuing saga
of the AAUP’s investigation into the MD Anderson tenure system. I am not sure
what they are going to investigate because the MD Anderson has no tenure
system. It has a seven-year term renewable system with annual contracts for
all. It’s far more like major league baseball than like a university in this
way. That makes sense as universities participate in more contact sports than
major league baseball does. And MD Anderson usually is not considered a field
for contact sports (until recently, but I slip back into the trial story).

         Anyway, the AAUP is coming and the administration is basically
saying the organization has no standing but can come anyway and frankly I have
no idea why anyone would care either way.

         Why am I so blasé?

         The seven-year term system has been in place at Anderson
since its inception and has clearly served the place well.  It is totally legal and more importantly, not
exactly a secret. Every person coming to Anderson to be on the faculty is aware
of the rules governing his or her reappointment. So, as Super Chicken said to
his sidekick, the oft-traumatized lion Fred, “you knew the job was dangerous
when you took it.”

         Do I think that Dr. DePinho was a fool to not grant tenure
renewal to the two candidates who were approved by their colleagues
unanimously? Of course I do. I suspect he was getting his usual bad advice from
those around him. Why pick a fight that you cannot win even if you win?

         Do I think once his actions were deemed reprehensible by the
Faculty Senate, Dr. DePinho should have taken the opportunity to mend some
fences and give a mea culpa on a small issue like this? Of course I do. You
have to be crazy to fight about something this small when you have all the
money and all the power anyway. Why not be a good loser when there is so little
at stake? Do you have to take every trick? (oops, the other story again).

         Do I think the whole argument has gotten completely off
track because while the original problem was an abuse of presidential power,
the subsequent brouhaha is now about the term-tenure system that everyone who
ever worked at Anderson operated under without complaint or at least without
using an outside group to protest? Yes, I do.

         This has got to be one of the great contests in who can do
the stupider thing—DePinho refusing to grant the renewals or the Senate for
fighting about the wrong thing or the AAUP for picking the wrong side in the
wrong fight or President Obama saying he won’t do stupid stuff and then doing
it anyway. Hard to know. So much bad judgment to go around.

         I just thought I would weigh in with some levity. This trial
is so serious and does really matter and the mainstream media is focusing on
the wrong issue again there too, the unseemly love triangle, rather than the
failure of the MD Anderson system and its clinical leadership to protect those
in it. Thus, I am wondering if I am living in the same world as the news media.
But, of course, I am the guy who took his whole family to Israel during “a war.”
Excuse me, please pass the falafel.

         Just as I liked it better when the Executives were simply
doing naughty things to line their pockets rather than overseeing faculty doing
each other harm, I also liked it better when the arguments were totally silly.
Thanks AAUP. You have brought a smile back to my face in an otherwise dismal

1 thought on “Time Out for Super Chicken”

  1. I worked and MD Anderson for 31 years as of March 31, 2014. Reading your blog has made me think about a lot that happen to me the last year I was there. For example: written up and put on notice for 1 year for something I did not do. Had never had a write up all the years I was there. But just know I am happy to have been on a job that long. Now Enjoying Retirement!!!

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