Chapter 13: The Faculty Senate and a Vision of Faculty Influence

Title

Chapter 13: The Faculty Senate and a Vision of Faculty Influence

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Dr. Tomasovic begins this chapter by sketching the history of the Faculty Senate. He discusses term-tenure then expands on the idea that the Faculty Senate was part of a larger vision of building faculty control over the governance of the institution. Dr. Tomasovic also explains how he came to found the Faculty Leadership Academy (1991), devoted to nurturing leadership qualities of faculty.

Publication Date

8-1-2011

Publisher

The Historical Resources Center, The Research Medical Library, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - Building the Institution; MD Anderson History; The Administrator; Building/Transforming the Institution; On the Nature of Institutions; Understanding the Institution

Disciplines

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History

Transcript

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Shall we return to the faculty senate issue? And talk about the founding of that and what was at stake in creating the faculty senate at that particular time in MD Anderson's history.

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

Yeah. I think the regents' rules -- I don't know. Currently the regents' rules do say that you need a faculty governance organization. I don't know for sure when that appeared in the regents' rules. I don't know if that was -- likely that was always in the regents' rules. But it really hadn't -- it was probably only predominant in the -- it was much more the climate within the four-year universities to have a faculty senate, faculty governance institution. Those types of academic settings were much more concerned 105 about faculty tenure, because tenure was lifetime. Much more concerned about protection of academic freedom, because they were teaching topics that were potentially politically sensitive. And so faculty senates, faculty governance organizations have existed at those kinds of universities for almost as long as the institution of tenure if not longer. In the health-related institutions, which had a lot of clinical faculty and were dealing with patient care and not teaching as many controversial things, I don't think it's -- the faculty urge to participate in those sorts of things and the faculty interest wasn't as high. And certainly at MD Anderson we had never had a faculty governance organization of that nature. I think at the Health Science Center they might have had an interfaculty council, which would be a similar related thing. And in fact I participated in that because of my membership in the graduate school. I served on that one time many years ago. But as I said Dr. LeMaistre and Dr. Bowen got to talking about that, and felt that MD Anderson should have a faculty governance organization, that we should be more universitylike. We were participating in the graduate school. I don't know if Dr. LeMaistre received any push from UT system about that. But technically we probably should have had a faculty governance organization. Maybe he'd gotten some questions about that. Maybe that's what drove him to ask. 106 I'm not sure. But the regents' rules call for faculty to participate through a governance organization in lots of matters relating to academic life. Probably another reason it wasn't as big an issue at MD Anderson for many years is we never had lifetime tenure at MD Anderson. Dr. Clark again, he had a vision that he wanted to make sure that faculty were -- the less charitable would say that he could get rid of them any time he wanted to. The more charitable would say that he wanted to be sure that faculty were always motivated to be productive and get out there and cure cancer. But he convinced the structure of the institution for MD Anderson to have a renewable form of tenure called term tenure. And so every seven years everyone who has term tenure at MD Anderson stands for renewal of tenure. In practice it acts much like lifetime tenure for most of us. And the rigor of it decreases with time. After the second renewal you don't even have to seek outside letters of support. But still to this day we can choose to not renew the tenure of anyone after seven years. And so the consequences of that were probably there wasn't as much at stake for research faculty. Tenure in clinical faculty, lifetime tenure, is very unusual, even in most universities today. The clinical faculty, very few of them get lifetime tenure, because it commits salary, or has historically. And most universities that have medical schools and so forth didn't want to have the 107 whole clinical salary to be tenured. If they are tenured, it's just for a base piece of the total salary. So getting lifetime tenure for a clinician at the university, Southwestern for example, it's a small portion. And they're usually very heavy researchers. Here at MD Anderson it's much easier for our clinical faculty to have term tenure because it's not as big a commitment for someone to give it away a little bit more freely. So I think those kinds of things, we were so focused, we didn't have things that we worried a lot about academic freedom, protection of tenure, and that got us off to a late start in thinking about faculty governance being important in the institution. And early on many of our faculty were clinical faculty. Our research faculty was a smaller proportion. As we got more research faculty that gave us a different composition and interest began to increase. I don't know if Dr. LeMaistre was hearing from faculty themselves about wanting a faculty governance organization. Anyway we began to work to create that because Dr. LeMaistre indicated that he wanted us to create an organization. So we looked at what other institutions were doing. We had a task force -- I think I referred to that a few minutes ago -- in the early '90s that dealt with trying to develop the structure for it, and setting up an election process, and determining what its bylaws would be. 108

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

What were the issues it took on when it was first formed? And was it a new -- how did people respond? How did the faculty respond to suddenly having this governance body?

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

It wasn't governing the faculty per se. It was a mechanism for the faculty to have participatory governance of the institution with administration. And the early years, I'd almost have to go back to the minutes to remember. The things that concerned them were things like grievance procedures, if they're being treated unfairly by administration, how do they participate in evaluating their leadership, how do they give their views to the president and the other executive leaders without having it filtered by their department chairs, division heads.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

I think I read in Dr. Olson's book that they had some say in the allocation of space and resources.

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

Yeah, they wanted to have say in lots of matters related to conditions that affect their lives in the institution. But I'd say in the early years they were relatively less aggressive than they are now. Now they're much more involved and strong than they were in the early years. Their leadership meets more frequently with the president than I do.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Was the creation of the faculty senate part of the whole development of a culture that you were participating in with Margaret Kripke in -- that was 109 the faculty development move. Let's create a context in which we're doing everything we can to support the lives of faculty. And it sounds like faculty senate was evolving into a piece in that puzzle.

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

Yeah, it could be considered in that way. Yes I agree. It was trying to have faculty have more of a role in the institution as we grew. And also one of the challenges that we were having was hearing from faculty. We would tell things to department chairs or division heads as executive leaders. We'd give them information, direction. And we continually would discover that the message wasn't getting to the faculty or the message was not getting accurately to the faculty. And it's a problem that still we're challenged with today. But it was a more direct way of getting information to the faculty through their representatives. There was one elected representative for each eight faculty. They were elected from departments and they could theoretically go back to the departments and bring issues from the departments. And then those could be taken right by in essence any administrative barriers that they might have had directly to the provost, chief academic officer, president, whatever their titles were at the time. So it was an opportunity to directly provide feedback and get more accurate information theoretically. We still have lots of communication problems. And for them to recognize their achievements and honor 110 faculty. So the faculty honors convocation was created during the time I was senate chair. The faculty achievement awards in research and education and clinical care were created to get significant recognition to faculty who excelled. And to celebrate ourselves as an academic institution. It was part of that going from a very hospital-focused, clinical-research-focused kind of an organization, patient-care-focused organization into a more universitylike environment. And we had faculty governance and faculty senate and honors convocations, and the things that universities did.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Was the faculty leadership academy that you had asked me to mention, how was that related or was it related to that push?

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

Not related to the faculty senate push, but it was something that we had -- one of the issues that we were concerned about and are still concerned about to this day was leadership of faculty and quality of faculty leaders. Then and still to a large extent until today faculty leaders in organizations like ours are chosen primarily on an examination of their CV. And great scientist, great clinician, let's make him department chair or division head or vice president. And many times that works well. But the reality is in the preparation of someone to be a physician or a scientist, that's a very 111 narrow training process, and increasingly so all the time, as disciplines have split out from fairly broad fields. And the need to focus. And there's almost no attention given whatsoever to understanding business practices or administration or managing people, leading people, dealing with conflict. The only way you learn anything about those are just from your mentoring experience in your GME training or in your PhD training. And so we then and we now hire individuals that fail miserably at being faculty leaders and cause lots of problems. So we've had several runs at trying to work on enhancing those skill sets in faculty that are no longer working in an individual lab or an individual clinic. They're working in a very complex organization with a $3 billion plus budget and close to 20,000 employees. This is a strange hybrid of a very large and busy hospital and clinic operation with a research enterprise, with a university type research enterprise. And so one of our -- Andy von Eschenbach I think was the one who first got to thinking about this. He had somehow run across, got interested in business administration program at Rice. And so he I believe was the one who set up one of our first attempts to teach faculty about leadership. And I was one of the people selected for that program because I was -- this occurred in the period when I was chairman of the faculty senate. So they were looking at current and potential and future leaders to 112 increase their leadership skills, their understanding of business administration. We were an increasingly big business and couldn't afford to have people who had no skills in those areas taking on leadership roles. So we set up an executive development program with Rice University's business school, ran it in 1991. It was a fairly typical business school program. And people who took it liked it. Liked getting together with folks they didn't normally get together with. We talked early in the first session about interprofessional education, interprofessional interactions. And so whenever we do one of these business type leadership programs, what everybody always likes best about them is the cohort that they're with, and getting to know those people, establishing those personal networks, and thinking about that.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Are the individuals who come to these programs self-selected? Or how does that work?

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

No, they're almost always nominated. They've always been very expensive programs to run. And we select people. So there was a group selected for that program, some of whom, like myself, now have prominent leadership roles in the institution. At that time I was deputy chairman I think still and president of the faculty senate. Shortly after that I got more leadership roles. So that program was considered somewhat successful but there was 113 no follow-through. It just didn't go any further. A few years later we weren't sure what the outcomes were from our expenditure of the money. And it tended to be like they'd give business examples like Coca-Cola. Tended to be a business school approach to giving examples of business practices, the lessons learned, but mostly from the corporate world. That's the way they were oriented, and they weren't used to working much with hospital. And so there were people who felt -- certainly the principles were perfectly applicable. But it's not a very sophisticated group of trainees for that purpose. And they really needed more examples that they could relate more directly to. So that had a mixed outcome. And then we had another run at it about eight years later in 1999. This time I'm not sure who set this one up. It might have been one of our chief business officers. Lost track of that. But this time it was with the University of Texas in Austin, their business school. This time it got worse reviews, and just wasn't considered successful, because they really didn't help the participants -- and I participated in that one as well. They really didn't help the participants connect what they were learning to our situation. And so the outcome of those were -- Dr. Kripke and I thought those programs were valuable. So that was '99, 2000. I became the vice president for educational programs in 2000 and was then reporting to Dr. Kripke 114 shortly thereafter. And so she and I had participated in both of those programs, both felt it was important to do that. But we hadn't done it successfully. And in 2000 when I took on the vice president for educational programs, I had an associate vice president or an assistant vice president, don't remember what he as, named Robin Sandefur. And he had hired Janis Apted. And we were doing some faculty development. And she had come to us from I think the University of Wisconsin in Madison where she'd been involved in some faculty development. And the kind of faculty development that it was was how do you run a laboratory, how do you do effective speaking. Basic stuff related to faculty careers more on an individual basis, how do you succeed as a faculty member in your discipline, in your department, whatever. And it wasn't really focused on leadership skills or training. But there's a whole gamut of other programs related to developing faculty careers that help them in lots of ways that aren't about leadership. And we still do lots of those programs. And I'm not sure if I can pull up the exact -- I'd have to do some research in my files. But somehow or other I thought of creating a faculty leadership academy. I don't know that I was using that terminology. But I talked to Dr. Kripke about it, and it resonated very well with her. We developed that, and needed to present it to the president and 115 his executive team. Don't remember if it was the PAB at that time or whether it was the management committee. But to propose that we would do faculty leadership training within the institution. And have a continuing program to develop our future leaders, succession efforts within the institution, to train people that we hire to be better leaders, to train junior faculty to be future leaders. And so I was scheduled to present the proposal, and here's where I made a leadership mistake. Your allies, you need to make sure your most influential allies are there when you're presenting controversial programs. Had done some groundwork in that regard, but clearly the most influential voice and credible voice in that regard would be the chief academic officer. And I was scheduled to make the presentation, and it got scheduled either when she wasn't going to be there, or she got pulled away for something. And I should have dropped it from the agenda and waited for her to return, but I went ahead, and that was a mistake. I gave the presentation, they were polite, I left the room, they just bombed it. There was a faculty leader who referred to the whole thing as amateur night at the rodeo. I heard that subsequently. This gentleman as it turns out has never been a great leader in the institution, a poor administrator, a poor leader. Has never participated in any effective way in the programs, and has never risen any farther than where he is 116 currently. But he had an influence that day. Margaret came back into town, discovered what had happened, went to the president. Backed me, pushed it forward and got it approved to do it. And so then Janis, who's now an associate vice president, and I worked with Margaret to have the creation of this faculty leadership academy. And Janis could tell you more details. But we've put hundreds of faculty through that program. And it has influenced. And we created a parallel program for administrative leadership. We work with HR. They have a parallel program. So a lot of faculty who are leaving here now or who have left to take leadership positions elsewhere have been through our leadership academy, have taken subsequent programs. And it's helped as we've moved forward from Margaret Kripke to Ray DuBois. He's very interested in mentoring of faculty and faculty development. And we've continued those programs and created new programs in mentoring, and mentoring awards. Dr. DePinho coming in has said that he's very interested in faculty mentoring and developmental plans for faculty. So Janis I think expects to continue to work with him and my successor and Dr. DuBois to continue to evolve that. We're not by any means -- we have a lot to go. We really haven't totally succeeded in making your leadership skills an important part of your recruitment here. There's still a tendency for department chairs to be 117 hired or division heads to be hired based on their scientific and clinical expertise and questions about -- and behavioral interviewing is barely a topic that we understand here. We've worked on it for several years. But we still have a lot of work to do in defining leadership as part of your job. For example only in the last year have we tried to pull out from the total salary of faculty leaders a piece that says this $50,000 is what we're paying you to be a department chair. If you're no longer department chair you lose that money. So we're trying to create clear competencies for leadership for department chairs. We're trying to set clearly that there are dollar amounts that are at risk if you don't do this job well. We're trying to set an expectation that when we hire you you're going to continue to evolve your leadership skills. We're trying to coach and train recruitment search committees and others to ask questions. Behavior-related interviewing to try to elicit how they would handle leadership situations. So we're still making mistakes. We still have a ways to go. And it's a bit of a struggle because again the coin of the realm in this academic world is your research credentials, your academic credentials. And it's still very difficult to take someone who's a great leader but substantially lower academic credentials than someone who has tremendous academic credentials and the leadership is a little shaky. It's still very difficult to do 118 that. Because if you want those great people, and they want responsibility, you're going to have a tough time getting them here unless you can give them that responsibility.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Yeah, I got a copy of your narrative biography. Mary Jane Schier sent it to me. And the phrase I remember -- I'm paraphrasing here. But it talked about securing the future of MD Anderson. And strategic plans for securing the future. And as you're describing this faculty leadership academy I'm just seeing how you're trying to create a situation in which you're making an institutional investment in an individual from the very moment they're hired or they're targeted as someone who may become a leader. Not only the research, but in as you said their behavioral skill sets. Is that innovative in an institution?

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

Not especially. Businesses have been focusing on it for years.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

I'm just wondering about academic settings. That seems --

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

In an academic hospital setting, it's not been very common. Faculty leadership issues are talked about a lot now. But it's only been in the last ten or 15 years or so that that's really become an issue. And in large part it's because these organizations are so large and so complex and the challenges they're facing in order to maintain an efficient organization that can generate enough revenue to support their research and education 119 missions in the face of these external challenges, leadership has become very important. You can't afford to have -- you could get away with that in the past. Now there's much less tolerance for poor leaders because faculty don't tolerate it. They can go somewhere else. They can go to private practice if they don't like working here, and make more money. At least they used to be able to. Now even that might be a challenge. But these organizations are very very dependent on clinical margin. The federal government and the state don't give them enough money, and it's decreasing all the time, to train future scientists and train future clinicians. They don't give them enough money for those educational programs. They don't give them enough money for the research. So we're subsidizing large parts of our research and large parts of our education off the clinical margin, the difference between what it costs us to deliver care and what we're being paid. And as that decreases you've got to have a better organization, and you've got to have better leadership. And so we're trying to change culture with these kinds of programs. And as you know culture is the most difficult thing to change. And you can't just change it in one institution. If you're the institution that's saying we're more concerned about you being a leader than we are about your science or your clinical expertise, you're potentially losing key people you need. So 120 it's a difficult balance that we're trying to move toward while remaining competitive for those people in a national and even a global scale. And we have competitors across the street and up the state. We're all trying to keep these very highly talented people and trying to struggle with how do we change the culture so that leadership is recognized as something that's so valuable that we can't ignore it, and that it's an expectation for your role. If you take on that responsibility. If you want to be a department chairman, this is something you have to know, and this is something you have to devote time to. You can no longer just be publishing in Cell or Nature all the time and not paying attention to these other things. You have to figure out how to hire the right people to help you do that. You have to figure out how to be that kind of a person. And that's becoming increasingly important. And I think these programs and the direction that we've been trying to move strategically for a number of years now will ultimately help us meet the challenges that we're facing now. At least that's the intent.

Chapter 13: The Faculty Senate and a Vision of Faculty Influence

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