Of SAE Chants, Moral Relativism, Town Halls and Moon Shots

Of SAE Chants, Moral
Relativism, Town Halls and Moon Shots

By

Leonard Zwelling

         It is not at all unusual these days to have embarrassing
behavior caught on a cell phone video. (Just ask old 47% Mitt Romney.) It is
equally likely that when the video comes to light on youtube, there is a great
deal of hand wringing and wonderment at how apparently logical people can act
so badly.

         When an individual does something stupid and it’s caught on
a cell phone, the responsibility for the stupidity is clear. But when groups do
stupid things, hurtful things, racist things, then it is not clear at all.

         The Duke lacrosse scandal demonstrated that the truth can be
difficult to ascertain. A rush to finding a racist basis to behavior that can
be explained by immaturity and the need for additional brain development among
privileged young men in college should be something the adults in the room
prevent. The President of Duke University did exactly the opposite and thus
precipitated a crisis in inadvertent and politically correct collusion with a
politician who used the incident to gain votes. The President of Duke, who is
still in that position, should have been relieved of his duties for poor
judgment then. Since that time a major scandal at the Duke School of Medicine
regarding the misuse of genetic data for clinical care decisions and the recent
flap about expanding the use of the Duke Chapel to include calls to Muslim
prayers should have been enough to finally rid Duke of its current leadership,
but alas, not yet.

         Bad group behavior is as likely to be due to moral
relativism, political correctness, and groupthink as it is to true evil. Now I
consider moral relativism (“everyone is doing it, why can’t I?”) and groupthink
true evil, but many disagree and the SAE scandal at the University of Oklahoma
makes the point.

         The video of the racist chanting by the brothers of SAE is
more a demonstration of followership than of racism, although the leaders of
the group surely were racists at heart. I suspect that many in the room were
simply following what others were doing (that’s why I believe moral relativism
to be evil). I would like to know if any SAE brothers walked out. I would like
the media to focus on them. Unlikely. Not as good a story.

         But they would be the real story.

         Those who stand up to racism, megalomania and tyrannical
leadership are the precise people we need more of. Those who would buck moral
relativism and separate themselves from political correctness and groupthink,
even if it is just by walking away, are likely to be those who should be the
leaders in the future and will be needed to clean up the mess left by the
racists, megalomaniacs and tyrants.

         This, of course, brings me to MD Anderson where an uneasy
calm hangs over the faculty in light of the pending visit of the Chancellor on
March 18 and the opportunity that this visit presents.

         It is my understanding that Division Heads, department
chairs and other leaders are excluded from the meeting. Hopefully the major
DePinho apologists (beneficiaries of his largesse) will be limited. But the
three former Senate chairs who began a petition of support for the
administration in direct opposition to their former and current Senate brethren
and many assorted other DePinho compatriots may be in the audience advocating
for the current administration in a goose-step, lock step of moral relativism
and groupthink encouraged by Dr. DePinho and his team of non-rivals. This apologist
behavior must be resisted by those who know better.

         If the President of MD Anderson is willing to have his own
awards ceremony, complete with unfettered cash prizes (usable for boat
payments) from the Board of Visitors, (and you thought only the boosters of
athletic teams schmear [Yiddish for payment for favor] the hometown heroes) in
direct challenge to the Faculty Achievement Awards, which he did, he will do anything
from relieving international oncologic leaders of prime positions to committing
nepotism, self-dealing and conflict of interest violations galore.

         The
University of Oklahoma President, former Senator David Boren, demonstrated real
leadership when he condemned the SAE’s behavior and threw them off campus in 24
hours. That’s the way it is done. If it were only true that the Chancellor of
the UT System had that kind of insight and courage!

         Of course, if you demand administrative courage and
decisiveness of Dr. McRaven on March 18, you never know what might happen.

         More than ever, the fate of the future of MD Anderson lies
exactly where it ought to, in the hands of the rank and file faculty. If the
faculty demands DePinho’s replacement or at least a real, full and external
accounting of his performance, ethics and the culture that he established and
its alignment with the core values, there is hope for a new dawn at MD
Anderson.  If you allow the leadership in
Austin to once again paper over the last three and half years of bad behavior,
then you are at fault. Voting with your feet by not showing up won’t do either.
As Woody Allen said, “80% of life is showing up.”

         Show up. Speak up. Man (and woman) up. You’ve seen enough. Say
something!

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