volume 40, number 4
Temple UniversityFaculty Herald

Letters to the Editor

Michael Sirover, Professor of Pharmacology, School of Medicine

April 8, 2010

To the Editor:

I thank Steve very much for his spirited, albeit vituperative, response to my recent letter in the Faculty Herald. I welcome it. This is exactly the type of open and candid debate which has all but disappeared up here at the Medical School. That being said, I take issue with many, if not most, of the points raised in his response. In particular, there appear to be a number of fatal flaws contained in his missive.

 

The first fatal flaw relates to his extensive description detailing the mechanisms through which the matrix was developed. Steve goes to great lengths to describe the alleged contributions made by many of our faculty to its development and subsequent approval. He states that there was faculty involvement, committees were formed, faculty input was solicited and decisions were formalized.

The fatal flaw in his argument relates to the presumption that said faculty felt free to voice their candid opinions, to suggest meaningful changes and to devise an alternative plan. The truth of the matter is that we have at the Medical School an authoritarian, dictatorial regime which stifles free speech, which ruthlessly seeks to punish independent thought (as exemplified by the tone of Steve’s letter) and which arbitrarily institutes policies and procedures.

The reality of the situation is that there cannot be rigorous, free discussion when faculty understand implicitly that we have an authoritarian regime whose management philosophy is a “top down” business model with an employer-employee philosophy. This is a far cry from the concept of “The Academy” which was the model of our University for so many years. Accordingly, it may be reasonably argued that his description of the process had an “Alice in Wonderland” aspect to it, i.e., “Verdict first trial second”.

In his letter, Steve speaks of his 30 years here at Temple. He should be congratulated for his career and for his accomplishments. As such, Steve and I remember a time when the halls of the Medical School were graced by the likes of Charlie Papacostas, Gerry Schockman, Lolita Daneo-Moore (with cigarette in hand or in mouth), Gerhard Plaut, Renato Baserga, and, May G-d Rest his Soul, Sidney Weinhouse. I had my disagreements with some of these folk but, procedurally speaking, they behaved very differently than the current leadership.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to envision a scenario in which such eminent individuals would have participated in the meaningless faculty consultations which Steve describes. They would have acted as an in-house study section, evaluating the proposals, rating them and insisting on changes where applicable. They would not have gone through the motions, agreeing with the end result, which in all candor, I presume was already decided in advance.

The second fatal flaw resides in Steve’s assertion that the matrix was approved by the Medical Faculty Senate. In theory this is correct. The reality is that there is no Medical Faculty Senate as Steve and I used to know it. Thanks to former President Adamany and the lack of resistance of the faculty, the Senate was eviscerated to the point of irrelevance. The current Dean is the Presiding Officer of the Senate which is, by definition, a conflict of interest. My understanding is that Steve will assume the position of Vice-President of the Senate. This is also a conflict of interest as, not only is he a Department Chair, but is also the Director of a Research Center.

The third fatal flaw resides in his assertion that the decisions of the current Dean are agreed to by the respective Departmental Chair. The latter serves at the pleasure of the former and is therefore not an independent entity. This is not a free will situation with the opportunity for an independent determination. A gross analogy is that of a Feudal Lord and his vassals. Obedience is expected with banishment as the punishment for disobedience. One can only imagine what Gerhard and Gerry would have done in this situation. 

The fourth fatal flaw resides in his lack of response to the questions posed in the article. In particular, if memory serves, an individual receives 5 points for every extramural grant submitted whether funded or not. If such is the case, should not one receive an equivalent number of points for each time one sits on a study section and reviews such grants? This would seem both fair and equitable. As noted in my article, the former contains the possibility of obtaining funds while the latter does not. Hence, there is no equivalency in the matrix. Steve also did not respond to my query with respect to why specific points are not provided for distinct intramural and extramural service functions. He also did not consider how you would evaluate Medical School Faculty who served as President or as another officer of the University Faculty Senate within the matrix format. In his defense, Steve did confirm Dr. Orth’s comment about capping service contributions at 20.

In that regard, the fifth fatal flaw is that Steve did not attach a copy of the matrix form for the University Community to evaluate. It would be of interest to see the response of our colleagues to the emphasis or lack thereof with respect to teaching, scholarship and service. It may be that they consider it reasonable and fair, which would attest to the validity of his position. Alternatively, they may see the defects in it to which I have alluded.

The sixth fatal flaw is contained in his final paragraph. Regrettably, all too often individuals in administrative positions respond to an independent critique with both derision and with wrath. The last paragraph of Steve’s response is threatening in nature. Loosely translated, it states, “Be thankful you have a job. Now, be quiet and just do it.”

The two of us are beginning and ending our careers here at Temple University. When we started, we were the younger generation and depended on the Senior Faculty to defend our interests when we could not. Now, we are the older generation. It is our obligation to speak for those who dare not speak their thoughts out of fear of retribution, of intimidation, denial of earned merit, promotion and/or tenure.

Collegially yours,

Mike