Issues For The Faculty Senate

Issues For The Faculty Senate


Leonard Zwelling

The following comment was left on the blog on September 16:

The Senate has been marginalized. PP’s previous letter regarding PRS chastised and belittled – highlighting the Senate has lost credibility with “stakeholders” (Chancellor and Regents). The administrator for the Senate is now under HR, so any efforts to communicate out will effectively be blocked.
Faculty see the senate as controlled opposition and essentially ineffective.
The Fascism intensifies. And when you think it can’t get worse…. the Bylaws amendments come out, hammering home the fact that faculty are widgets.

There are 3 faculty currently having filed suit to protect their religious liberties. The way they were treated is egregious and capricious compared to other colleagues. It is all on-line. Members of the ELT publicly identified themselves as “partners in crime” regarding this issue.

THAT WHICH IS SEEN CANNOT BE UNSEEN. It’s just a matter of the lens the Chancellor and Regents are using. And their lens is clouded by $$$ and without any faculty contact whatsoever.

As the husband of the in-coming chair of the Faculty Senate, I was most shaken.

It is my contention that it is the Faculty Senate that has the most power to galvanize the faculty’s sentiments and propose remediation to grievances. If the Senate has lost credibility and is under the control of the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) as John Doe 123 claims, there is little hope for any improvement in the life of most faculty. It is my understanding that that life is under ever-increasing pressure to standardize behavior. The administration is using “bullying” and “retaliation” as excuses to get rid of faculty or make the faculty’s lives miserable.

It is also my contention that only an appeal to Austin by the Faculty Senate will ever turn this around short of an all-out walk out on the part of the clinical staff, an occurrence, as we have seen with railroad workers, that may necessitate powerful intervention to avoid.

What is the origin of this turmoil?

It actually goes back quite a way—almost twenty years.

Under John Mendelsohn, the leadership of the institution began to erode when he was caught in two scandals—Enron (board member) and ImClone (board member and stock holder). His prior great performance was forever tarnished.

Dr. DePinho was ill-prepared to lead a clinical cancer entity and ruled with an arbitrary, nepotistic iron fist. He was hopelessly conflicted and ignorant of modern cancer care. He had no chance. He didn’t last very long.

Now we have the apparent non-Ron in Peter Pisters who may actually prove to be more heavy-handed using helter-skelter policies to intimidate faculty under the guise of bullying and retaliation which is really just intimidation by another name led by teams of lawyers, HR officials, and vice presidents. I didn’t think it could get worse than DePinho. I was wrong again. I had actually told Dr. Pisters it should be easy to be better than the last guy. He has failed.

Other sources have alerted me to problems in the operating suites and I suspect the clinical enterprise is strained to the breaking point only to be pressured some more by the need for greater clinical revenue and a push to see more new patients.

What MD Anderson needs immediately is competent leadership and skilled managers. It has neither and the rift in the body politic will not heal under the current administration.

I see no chance that Dr. Pisters can right this ship and he ought to resign for the sake of the institution rather than wait to be pushed out—something that has become ineluctable at this point.

MD Anderson is really in trouble and unfortunately is almost devoid of institutional memory of its prior greatness. It is definitely time for a change. Now!

More to come from a secret source on Wednesday.

6 thoughts on “Issues For The Faculty Senate”

  1. Colleague: “Senate is neutered”.
    And bylaws are sent out yet a THIRD time today with a new deadline of 10/3, AND a meeting with ECFS on the schedule for tomorrow.

  2. John Doe makes many valid and cutting points but the claim that “the administrator for the Senate is now under HR, so any efforts to communicate out will effectively be blocked“ is nonsense. This is a special circumstance that will be rectified in due course. It has no bearing, whatsoever, on the ability of the Senate to communicate with anyone in Austin. As I previously noted, the Board does not generally get involved in campus disputes. Any communication directed to the Board is handled by Francie Frederick, General Counsel to the Board. In turn, she brings such matters to the General Counsel of the UT System. Where relevant, the Chancellor and the Executive Vice Chancellor for Heath Affairs become involved. Responses to faculty correspondence are highly coordinated between these offices. If progress is to be made in rectifying the many perceived faculty grievances at MD Anderson, it must come from consensus action by the Senate membership. This is no time to be running scared. There are many ways to bring heightened attention to faculty dissatisfaction including immediate town hall meetings, emergency upward evaluation, a candid faculty newsletter, and a vote of no-confidence – all of which attract press interest. It takes courage and determination to pursue these options but, as previously mentioned, meek subservience to an oppressive administration only invites more oppression. Incidentally, it is illegal for public employees to strike in the State of Texas (Government code: Title 6, Chapter 617.)

  3. Like you, I thought Peter would be better as I always thought he was a good clinician. I never had problems with him, but on discussing this with some of my former faculty he did not treat everyone like he treated me.
    On the InClone thing, you may not know that Regent Dannebaum told a group of MDACC Senate leaders that it was he that intervened with George WH Bush to talk to President Bush to take care of Mendelsohn’s InClone problem.
    I generally agree with David above. From what I hear, the MDACC Senate leaders have not been going to UTFAC where some of these things could be discussed.
    This whole episode of bring in outside law firms to hassle faculty and Senate classified staff is unbelievable and I think meant to silence the Senate officers.
    This whole debacle is very demoralizing to me and the faculty.

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