On December 21, 2012, the UNT Board of Regents (BOR) unanimously firedScott Ransom, DO, who is the fifth president of the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC). He was given a short notice of hand delivered letter three days prior.
President Scott Ransom was hired in 2006 on the recommendation of Chancellor Lee Jackson and approved unanimously by UNT BOR, which had subsequently unanimously approved the renewals of the contract in 2009, 2010 and lastly on Sept 1st, 2012 for another 3 year term. Each time of the amendments or renewals, his compensation had been consistently raised and outpaced his peers, he made more than $900,000 a year.
The timing of dismissal three days before Christmas was truly brutal and inhuman to someone that the BOR and the Chancellor had repeatedly and unanimously praised Dr. Ransom’s performance for the past 6 years. Dr. Ransom did not deserve to be dismissed in such a disgraceful manner. My prayers are extended to his family during this holiday seasons, even though he is financially well-off.
The abrupt firing of Dr. Ransom raises eyebrows and questions about the aptitude, the transparency and the undemocratic functioning of the BOR. The unanimity of the BOR reminisces the old days of Soviet Union’s methods.
The above illustrates the extensive power of Chancellor Lee Jackson because the BOR seems to rubber stamp of the Chancellor’s recommendation. For instance, University of North Texas President Gretchen Bataille was forced out in February 2010 over disagreements with the Chancellor.
In reviewing the contract and the firing letter to Dr. Ransom, whose job was terminated on “good cause” clause, which stipulates on page 5, section C: “Ransom’s negligent or willful violation of directives or orders of the Chancellor or Board.”
The regents accused Dr. Ransom of sowing “internal discord” by opposing a possible merger of the Fort Worth center and the main university campus in Denton when UNT Chancellor Lee F. Jackson announced in August that a 90-day study would evaluate the pros and cons of combining the center and UNT under the same academic umbrella, a model that he said would benefit research.
“Instead of allowing this study to proceed in a thoughtful and objective way, we discovered that you were conducting a personal campaign to stop any serious internal consideration of this issue,” UNT regents told Scott Ransom in a letter dated Tuesday.
The Regents accused Dr. Ransom of putting his personal ambition above the higher interest of UNT system of the potential benefits of the merger of UNT campus in Denton and the UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth, “selective and misleading data to support your personal agenda.”
Dr. Ransom was accused of instilling the fear in the community leaders that a merger would force the center to cede too much control and autonomy to officials in Denton.
In November 14, UNT System Chancellor Lee F. Jackson decided to table “further discussion of the concept of a merger of our two universities indefinitely so it will not be considered in 2013″ because “other priorities, now is not the best time to pursue this proposal.”
Interestingly, the letter referred for the first time about the concerns of Dr. Ransom’s leadership style over his six-year tenure at the helm of UNTHSC : “Over the past six years, the University of North Texas System Board of Regents and Chancellor Lee F. Jackson have expressed concerns about aspects of your conduct and leadership style, always with the belief that these aspects of your performance would improve and that you would succeed despite these challenges.” Ironically, the BOR had repeatedly raised Dr. Ransom’s compensation, which is unparalleled with his Texan peers.
The Board of Regents (BOR) seemed not to care about the accusations of Dr. Ransom’s inappropriate leadership and untruthfullness by the longtime faculty members and chairpersons in 2009. A compilation of 56 pages was prepared and submitted to BOR by a tenured full-professorship and chairperson, Scott Stoll, DO, PhD; however, no action was taken to look into the accusations, Dr. Ransom was instead handsomly rewarded. Dr. Stoll courageously resigned from his privileges and perks of a tenured professorship and department chairmanship.
Regarding to the desire of conducting a thoughtful, scientific and objective study, the BOR seemed not to care so much about these stated criteria when a MD School Initiative Study Group was set up also before the holidays in 2008 in a completely biased way. The fair process of the MD study group was publicly questioned.
Where was the UNT BOR?
The BOR seemed to be solely interested in the favorable outcome of the MD study group. A pre-determined outcome was taken prior to the UNT Board of Regents Meeting, although the validity of the commissioned consultant firms’ (Price Waterhouse Cooper and Deloitte) study findings were being questioned. The first consulting firm refused to sign off on the final product of the MD study group’s “Academic and Business for the Development of a Proposed MD Program” or UNTMD Business Plan because of the low-cost estimate for building a MD school at $ 25 million, i.e, one fourth of the average cost of building a new allopathic medical school. The second consulting firm signed off on the final product on the condition that all the facts presented by the university be true. The BOR approved unanimously the UNTMD Business Plan any way on November 20, 2009.
Another independent consultant firm JMWatts, well-known firm for building new allopathic program, was hired by the Texas Osteopathic Medical Association, to evaluate the feasibility of UNTMD business plan; it concluded UNTMD school would cost $105.8 million to the state for the first 8 years.
Furthermore, a scientific and referenced analysis “A Cost Analysis of the Proposed MD Program at UNTHSC:Spending More and Getting Less” provided factual counter-argument to each point and benefit listed in the UNTMD Business Plan.
As the grounds listed in the firing letter are only circumstantial, which did not constitute a harsh dismissal. The ousting of Dr. Ransom could have handled as a form of resignation.
There are several questions that needed to be answered:
What were the real reasons for sacking Dr. Ransom’s in such a rush less than 3 weeks when the Texas 83 rd Legislature convenes on January 8th; 2013.
On November 6, Travis county tax-payers approved the property tax increase in order to contribute yearly $76 million toward the building of new medical school in Austin. Dr. Ransom’s rigid UNTMD proposal with the $ 25 million fund does not stand a chance against the financial commitments of The Universtity of Texas system, which has garnered $ 4.1 billion investment from the local community to create a new medical school and health center in Austin, and also committed $100 million for the medical school in the Rio Grande Valley.
Dr. Ransom cannot be any more the poster child of UNTMD proposal unless major fundraising goal is raised.
How many millions of dollars will UNT system pay to Dr. Ransom in his compensation package?
Dr. Ransom’s leadership and management of UNTHSC had been satisfactory to the BOR and the Chancellor for the past 6 years. His characters must have been well-known by his superiors. It should be emphasized Dr. Ransom was still seen a valuable asset in September to the Board and the Chancellor so that they renewed the contract for another three years.
Now, Chancellor Lee Jackson blamed on the breakdown of communication, the end of trust and the end of collaboration on key issues led to Ransom’s termination.
Early termination of Dr. Ransom’s job can cost to a few million dollars as the usual severance package for a CEO like position covers at least one to two years of salary. Litigation of unfair process of a dismissal can incur more cost. The unnecessary financial loss could have provided hundreds of free-tuition college scholarships. Someone has be held accountable for the unneccessary loss of million dollars incurred to UNT system or UNTHSC.
This incident reveals the extensive powers held by a University Chancellor, who can be an authoritarian as it is shown in the contract that any neglect or failure to follow the directives of the Chancellor can be ground for dismissal.
Chancellor Lee Jackson is first and foremost an astute local politician and not an educator. Prior to his political appointee to the Chancellorship in 2002, Lee Jackson began his career in the Dallas City Manager’s Office, served 10 years in the Texas House of Representatives, and was elected four times as Dallas County Judge, chief elected official in the State’s second largest county.
Thanks to his political connections and leadership, UNT system has expanded with the creation of UNT Dallas College of Law, expansion of UNT-Dallas campus, and UNT system College of Pharmacy. These accomplishments are extremely commendable when the state’s budget has faced shortfalls.
Chancellor Lee Jackson is definitely a man of high ambition. He is determined in bringing a MD school under UNT flag. UNTHSC is the only osteopathic institution in Texas, the proposed funding of $ 25 million for the sister MD school is outrageously low and will destroy the DO school.
If the so-called coalition of MD-school in Fort Worth had presented such a plan of a few billion dollars to transform UNTHSC into a major health center, no osteopathic physicians would have opposed to the major transformation of UNTHSC.
In addition, Fort Worth community has not been consulted on; only some business groups, some medical groups, some hospitals, some politicians and some local newspapers gathered together as part of the Elite Group to decide what is best for the city and for the state without the residents’ participation.
Looking at the model of The University of Texas -Austin, all walks of life in the community have approved the project to create a new medical school and a major healthcare center with the investment of $4.1 billion over 12 years. Tax-payers are willing to foot $76 million yearly to the project.
The interim president of UNTHSC Micheal Williams, DO is a TCOM graduate and has lead a very successful medical career as he has been CEO of Hill Country Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg and is board certified in anesthesiology and critical care medicine.
For the past six years, UNTHSC has undergone so many turmoils by having a large exodus of osteopathic physician educators, going through four deans, and now the president of UNTHSC.
Time has come to let educators to do their jobs best. DOs represent only 7% of the nation’s total number of practicing physicians, but that number is going to change soon as 20% of U.S. medical students are currently enrolled in an osteopathic school. There are more similarities than differences between MDs and DOs. In 2015, M.D.s and D.O.s Moving toward a Single and Unified Accreditation System for Graduate Medical Education.
Time has come for policy makers to act on increasing new residency slots to respond to the forecast of physician shortage and to serve the underserved areas such as South Texas.