What #MeToo May Really Mean To MD Anderson

What #MeToo May Really Mean To MD Anderson


Leonard Zwelling

Perhaps it comes as no surprise to all the women out there.

Men have been abusing them by flaunting their power. The women were stuck. Their livelihoods might depend upon keeping a job that came with an abusive and perhaps sexually abusive boss. No one would believe their stories. Until now.

There can be no doubt that in the halls of power in Hollywood, Washington, DC, corporate America, and every state capital, women have been subjected to unconscionable behavior by powerful men. And the men have been getting away with it. Until now.

Finally, in a particularly egregious example, the current GOP candidate for the US Senate from Alabama has been accused by at least five women that he sexually assaulted them when they were all under 18. One was 14. He was in his thirties and a district attorney. He denies the allegations, but even the minority leader of the Senate has said, “I believe the women.” That is a huge step. Finally, the accusers are getting the benefit of the doubt.

It will be interesting to see what happens if Mr. Moore wins the December 12 election anyway. Will the Senate refuse to seat him? Will he be effective at all as a legislator? Will the press overwhelm him with questions about the allegations? Will he drive Donald Trump off of page one?

I think that it is important that we take into account two things. First, while no one should be denied their presumption of innocence, these incidents seem uncannily similar both among the perpetrators and among the assaulted. Second, this is not about or limited to sexual assault. This is about power and the actions of these men are those of bullies.

With that in mind, one realizes that the interpersonal dynamic that has allowed these men (and it is mostly men) to evade any criminal action against them is at play in almost every workplace almost every workday. I have been bullied and the chances are that you have, too.

Every work environment has its pecking order. Someone needs to decide the direction every organization and department is going to take and many others need to actualize that plan. But there is no excuse for flaunting power over people beyond that needed to get the work done. Yet, it occurs and when it does it must be called out.

It is intolerable that an institution of the caliber of MD Anderson could have withstood the narcissistic hubris at the top that it did for almost six years without someone doing something. But it did. Those who could have acted didn’t. Those who did, were fired. And the people in Austin whose job it was to oversee the well-being of the personnel at UT’s cancer center simply didn’t do that job. I include here the current Chancellor and Executive Vice Chancellor who took way too long to finally rid MD Anderson of its resident tyrant.

That brings me to my final point.

I would suggest that Dr. Pisters request that the UT System allow him to appoint a true Board of Directors for MD Anderson. Every member should be from Houston. Every member should be beyond reproach and not be a political appointment who will serve to rubber stamp what the president wishes to do. The faculty should have a seat on that board. So should the non-faculty employees.

If Dr. Pisters is to be effective, he must be accountable. His predecessor was not and neither was that guy’s predecessor. This structure is antiquated.

MD Anderson needs a real local board that keeps a check on the previously unbridled power of the president. If Dr. Pisters is really as savvy as he seems to be, he should welcome such a board.

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