Commentary: The dirty laundry of University of North Texas System (UNT) is being spilled in public after the recent humiliation of dismissal or firing of University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) President Ransom on the UNT Chancellor Jackson’s recommendation to the Board of Regents (BOR).
It is very unusual that a president of a university or a CEO to be fired in such a humiliating manner. Any disagreement among the leadership, an usual quiet resignation is usually the course. The interesting part of the dismissal of president Ransom was done in an abrupt way and was unanimously by the BOR and the interim president Williams had been chosen a day prior.
This reveals the extensive power of Chancellor Lee Jackson that the UNT BOR acts as his rubber stamp council instead as his supervisory body. He succeeded amazingly and arbitrarily to move the headquarter of UNT system and the Chancellor office away from Denton to Dallas, where he has the most attachment. UNT-Denton is the largest campus of the system with about 35,000 students enrolled.
Former UNT-Denton Gretchen Bataille learned her lesson of disagreeing with Chancellor Jackson, she had to resign quietly in 2010.
In the case of President Ransom, he received the humiliated treatment of a dismissal by the BOR after 6 years at the helms of UNTHSC with repeatedly public praises from his superiors.
What were the real reasons behind the abrupt dismissal of Ransom because it would expose UNT system to expensive litigation, settlement and severance package?
It can be speculated that the average of severance compensation usually covers at least 2 years of salary, i.e, $2M.
Both Ransom and Jackson are men of high ambition and strong headed. Dr. Ransom would not go away quietly with a tarnished reputation on his resume. Litigation or appeal will only spill more dirty laundry of the UNT system. The cost of firing Ransom may end up costing a few million dollars. This unnecessary financial loss could have better used to provide financial aid to students, a few hundreds of college-tuition scholarships could have been given to needed students.
The lack of foresight and misjudgment of Chancellor Jackson on Dr. Ransom’s behaviors reveal a huge failure of Chancellor Jackson’s leadership skills and character judgement of someone who had worked for the past 6.5 years under him. Furthermore, Chancellor’s arrogance and ego, which played in the part of firing Ransom instead of making him resign, will be very costly the UNT system. The BOR should take responsibility in the part of mishandling Dr. Ransom case. Chancellor Jackson’s mistake in this case has tarnished the reputation of UNT system.
Dr. Ransom’s presidency at UNTHSC was not without critics either for his management skills. The turnover of TCOM deans is the highest in the history of TCOM. Four deans had served him. Large exodus of osteopathic physicians was taken place in the environment. Scott Stoll, DO, PhD, tenured full-professorship and department chairship, resigned from all the privileges and perks after having committed 25 years of his career to UNTHSC and TCOM.
Dr. Ransom’s legacy was not that all rosy as he claimed. He would have been the nation’s medical education Czar for finding the formula of reducing the cost of building a new allopathic school at one fourth of the average cost. Unfortunately, the wishful number of cost was completely false.
Time has come to move forward and focus on the future of UNTHSC and UNT system. Dr. Ransom’s humiliated departure may be due to karma that he had sowed by having forcing others out during his tenure. New leadership provides a chance to mend the widening rift between the health center and the osteopathic community.
Chancellor Jakson’s mishandling of Dr. Ransom has tarnished image of the university, exposes the lack of transparency and democracy in BOR, and would cost millions of dollars to the university that hundreds of students could afford college education with that loss of money. He needs to be held responsible for the mismanagement. He is a very good politician and well-connected, but not an educator. He should leave the educators to do their jobs. He may have lost his luster to represent UNT system more effectively.
Fired Fort Worth medical center head blasts UNT System chancellor
By Star Telegram , Thursday, January 3, 2013
Lee Jackson, chancellor of the University of North Texas System, misstated facts, lacked the knowledge to lead operations and allowed “pride and ego” to influence his decision-making, the leader of Fort Worth’s Health Science Center said last month, according to a searing presentation released by his spokeswoman.
Dr. Scott Ransom was fired as president of the Health Science Center by a 7-0 vote in December, five months after regents renewed his contract.
Ransom’s spokeswoman, Nancy Sterling, said he delivered the remarks to the board of regents during a two-hour closed session Dec. 21.
That meeting came four days after Ransom received a letter signed by board chairman Jack A. Wall and accusing him of sowing “internal discord” by opposing a possible merger between the Fort Worth medical complex and the university’s flagship campus in Denton.
Ransom’s presentation, titled “Dr. Scott Ransom Presentation to Board of Regents,” describes a thin-skinned Jackson who was willing to throw him “under the bus” when Fort Worth leaders appeared wary of the merger.
Last week, the Star-Telegram obtained portions of the presentation; the full text has since been released.
“I have done nothing wrong,” Ransom told regents, according to the document. “As one regent highlighted to me, ‘The chancellor’s pride and ego were damaged through the merger discussion.’ “
In his comments, Ransom blames Jackson for his firing, painting a picture of a chancellor so determined to merge the system’s various campuses and business operations that he would broker no dissent. Ransom also accuses the former Dallas County judge of “misstating the facts” about operations and lacking the “temperament and skills” to lead operations.
“In my opinion as a line administrator, the chancellor simply does not know how to do operations,” Ransom said, according to the document.
Deborah Leliart, vice president of university relations at UNT, said neither university officials nor the board of regents would discuss personnel matters or what happened in closed session.
“Dr. Scott Ransom continues to assert publically his intention to appeal the board’s unanimous decision on his termination and it would be inappropriate to comment on or speculate about Dr. Ransom’s actions,” said Leliart, who said she is serving as spokeswoman for the UNT System.
Ransom has declined to comment since his firing. Sterling, of a Boston-based image consulting firm, said last week that he is considering an appeal.
It is unclear how an appeal would work. Ransom is entitled to compensation earned and unpaid in his role as president through the day he was fired, according to the contract.
Ransom is a tenured professor at the Health Science Center, according to the contract.
An independent decision
Ransom’s presentation outlined his accomplishments since taking over as president of the Health Science Center in 2007, including increasing research spending to more than $40 million per year and tripling the size of the clinical practice.
He said enrollment has grown from 1,000 to 1,949 and is expected to reach 2,150 in the fall. He also touted efforts in raising funds for a proposed M.D.-granting program in Fort Worth.
Ransom’s presentation to regents goes into detail about the proposed merger, emphasizing that members of the UNT Health Science Center Foundation Board and its Board of Visitors, an advisory body, didn’t like the merger idea, regardless of Ransom’s views.
The foundation board “is made up of significant leaders of the Fort Worth community,” Ransom wrote. “They independently made their decision.
“Throwing me under the bus will not convince the Board of Visitors or Foundation Board to support the merger.”
On Christmas Eve, the chairman of the Board of Visitors, Dr. Ron J. Anderson, told Wall in a letter that Ransom did not attempt to sway the board against a merger.
“The action taken against Dr. Ransom is counter to our charter and has the potential to eliminate needed trust among leaders, faculty and volunteers who may have to face other challenging situations in the future,” wrote Anderson, who served as chief executive of Parkland Hospital in Dallas until 2011.
Anderson said Jackson has always placed the system above himself and asked the board to reconsider Ransom’s firing.
Ransom’s salary includes $678,562 in base pay, plus $226,000 in supplemental salary. In 2010, The Texas Tribune listed Ransom’s total $904,562 paycheck as the largest for a university administrator in Texas.
The Health Science Center, a medical teaching and research complex that sits on 33 acres on Camp Bowie Boulevard, has long been a point of pride in Fort Worth. Even after a merger, the center would stay in Fort Worth, where it has been since 1970.
But community leaders worry that a merger would force the center to cede too much control and autonomy to officials in Denton.
A lack of cooperation?
Wall’s December letter to Ransom began by saying that regents and Jackson had “expressed concerns about aspects of your conduct and leadership style” over the past six years and listed several examples of what he called Ransom’s lack of cooperation.
– In August and September, Ransom was said to have continually discussed with regents his interest in being the president of a “newly merged institution.”
– Ransom was said to have been negative about the merger during internal discussions.
– Regents said he edited a draft of the campus merger study so it was one-sided, showing only the negatives.
– Regents said Ransom didn’t include the system chancellor in discussions with Fort Worth community leaders about the merger.
“The letter is full of misstatements, factual errors and untruths,” Ransom told regents, according to his presentation.
Ransom also struck back at claims in Wall’s letter that he had “a personal agenda” to undermine a plan to centralize administrative and business services through a Business Services Center located in Denton.
Ransom told the regents that, far from improving services, the consolidation created slowdowns and, in one case, potentially dangerous conditions.
Payroll was late, and electric and water bills weren’t paid, he said in the presentation. In addition, the electronic medical records were shut down for two days, which he said could have affected patients.
Ransom said Jackson “exploded” when he learned that Ransom had asked his staff to assess the pros and cons of the consolidation and then submitted their findings to UNT system auditors.
“He was unbelievably angry and told me to pull the report from audit or I would be fired,” Ransom said, according to the document. “Clearly, he did not like the results of the study and was trying to cover up the study.
“In my opinion, the chancellor was really angry because he knows that the document proves that he has been misstating the facts regarding the BSC to the regents and various state agencies.”
Ransom told regents that Jackson takes disagreements personally and wanted him fired because he didn’t appreciate Ransom’s contrary opinions.
“Being fired for a difference of opinion is simply not acceptable,” Ransom said, according to the document. “Being fired for creating a report that has conclusions different than the chancellor is not appropriate.
“Being fired for the strong opinions from the citizens of Fort Worth related to the merger proposal is not appropriate.”
Is Fort Worth feeling UNT’s growing pains?
Saturday, December 29, 2012
University of North Texas System Chancellor Lee Jackson was worried about perceptions in Fort Worth after the board of regents voted Dec. 21 to fire UNT Health Science Center President Scott Ransom.
It seems Jackson has had to worry about Fort Worth a lot in recent months.
That might not be a bad thing.
Though disruption creates uncertainty, it also makes people take notice and ask questions.
Primary among them should be, “Where does Fort Worth fit in with UNT’s many ambitions?”
During his 10 years as chancellor, Jackson has moved the system’s headquarters from Denton to Dallas — to the consternation of UNT alums like state Sen. Jane Nelson of Flower Mound.
He worked to secure approval for the UNT Dallas College of Law, which is expected to start classes in fall 2014 (lawschool.untsystem.edu/). Texas A&M University’s purchase of Texas Wesleyan’s downtown Fort Worth law school created a race to be the first public law school to open its doors in North Texas.
Jackson helped drive growth at UNT Dallas, which now enrolls some 2,000 students at its campus in south Dallas. The school is seeking a new president.
Regardless of who or what brought about Ransom’s ouster, its abruptness has aroused skeptics who recall the 2010 resignation of Gretchen Bataille as president of the UNT 36,000-student flagship campus in Denton. She had butted heads with Jackson over several issues.
The UNT System counts more than 100,000 alumni living and working in North Texas. It’s understandable if they are wondering where things are heading.
It’s evident that UNT has been positioning itself to become a major academic force, if not the dominant public university, in the region.
But what does that mean for the Health Science Center, a well-regarded institution in its own right?
“I’m excited about the Health Science Center,” Jackson said in a telephone interview with the Editorial Board Dec. 21.
From his perspective, the system “has been a committed, effective partner” to Fort Worth.
But Jackson acknowledged that “some state policy leaders” wondered what signal it sent when the regents agreed to study the possibility of putting UNTHSC under the administrative control of the Denton campus. Was there no longer interest in pursuing an M.D. program for the Health Science Center, which is limited by state law to granting osteopathic medical degrees?
Merger talk was put on hold to focus on the M.D. degree. But Jackson said the issue might not be ripe for the 2013 legislative session, even though backers have secured pledges for the $25 million estimated cost for the first five years.
“We haven’t yet succeeded in creating enough unity and support to achieve approval,” he said.
Some might suspect that Michael Williams, a graduate of UNTHSC’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and a hospital administrator, was named interim president to help build that lagging support. In a short stint as a UNT System board member, Williams has been seen as a liaison to osteopathic physicians, maybe even some opposed to the M.D. proposal.
“Any change in leadership creates an opportunity to freshen and improve your alliances,” Jackson said, somewhat cryptically. “A fresh negotiator might sometimes open pathways to opportunity.”
That might not be enough, though. South Texas lawmakers who’ve spent years lobbying for a medical school in the Rio Grande Valley are fed up waiting. With the University of Texas moving ahead on a medical school in Austin, the UT System has announced a plan to merge components in Edinburg, Brownsville and Harlingen into a University for the Americas with the goal of developing an existing academic health center into a medical school.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has issued a new draft report emphasizing the need for residency slots.
A former Dallas County judge who served 10 years in the Texas House, Jackson knows his way around Austin. There’s little doubt he can be an effective advocate for the M.D. program, but he seems to want and need Fort Worth’s trust. The dust is still settling.
Leader of Fort Worth Health Science Center ‘surprised’ by firing
Friday, December 28, 2012
On the day he was fired, the president of the University of North Texas Health Science Center told regents he was “saddened” and “surprised” to learn that they considered him disruptive and had questioned his leadership for more than six years, according to documents obtained Friday by the Star-Telegram.
“I only heard positive comments and accolades across the board,” Dr. Scott Ransom told University of North Texas System regents in a closed session Dec. 21, according to the documents. “Several regents said ‘great job,’ including the chairman.”And then in August you approved a new three-year renewal on my contract. As far as I have been told, everything was going very well under my leadership through the middle part of October.”
Regents reconvened after that closed session and announced that Ransom was fired. In a letter signed by board chairman Jack A. Wall, Ransom was accused of sowing “internal discord” by opposing a possible merger of the Fort Worth center and the main university campus in Denton.
Wall’s letter began by telling Ransom that the regents and system Chancellor Lee F. Jackson, formerly Dallas County judge, had “expressed concerns about aspects of your conduct and leadership style” during the six years that Ransom ran the medical research and teaching complex on Camp Bowie Boulevard in Fort Worth.
Ransom is working to appeal the regents’ decision, said Nancy Sterling of ML Strategies, a Boston-based consulting firm hired by Ransom. Sterling said Ransom had no comment on Friday.
The Health Science Center is affiliated with the university system but operates as an independent campus. Although the center would remain in Fort Worth under a merger, the proposal raised fears among Fort Worth leaders about a loss of local control.
Several members of the UNT Health Science Center Foundation Board, a fundraising arm, gathered Friday to discuss the center’s future.
“This was not the Fort Worth way,” Arnold Gachman, a foundation board member, said of the firing. “It just didn’t have a good feeling.”
Foundation members worry that Ransom’s firing will scare away philanthropists, students and lawmakers, who will ultimately decide whether to add an allopathic medical degree to the school’s current osteopathic program.
Board member Michele Reynolds said members want to build a coalition among community groups to give Fort Worth a stronger voice in the system, which has its flagship campus in Denton and its offices in Dallas.
The Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine opened in Fort Worth in 1970, and it became the UNT Health Science Center in 1993. Its roots go back to the founding of Fort Worth Osteopathic Hospital in 1944.
“This community is very different,” Reynolds said. “There is such pride in the community. To have something like this happen, the way it happened, everyone takes it personally.”
In August, Jackson announced 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.
But “the Fort Worth community did not like the merger from the beginning,” Ransom’s presentation states.
The Star-Telegram obtained only part of Ransom’s presentation. The documents indicate that he began clashing with system leaders in October, just two months after his contract was renewed through August 2015 and about the same time he was helping with a study of the merger possibilities.
Ransom struck back at claims in Wall’s letter that he had “a personal agenda” to undermine a plan to centralize administrative and business services throughout the system.
Ransom told the regents that the consolidation did not improve services but instead created slowdowns. Payroll was late, and electric and water bills weren’t paid, he said. In addition, electronic medical records were shut down for two days, which he said could have affected patients.
The regents’ letter to Ransom, which was delivered four days before his firing, accused him of “conducting a personal campaign” to derail serious consideration of the merger proposal.
Ransom told the regents that he did everything they asked, including compiling a preliminary evaluation of the proposed merger. But regents said Ransom worked to turn Fort Worth leaders against a merger.
On Friday, members of the foundation board made it clear that they don’t plan to go away quietly. “We have to protect the investments made over generations here,” said board member Tim Sullivan.
UNTHSC hits turmoil before session
Friday, December 21, 2012
Heading into a legislative session isn’t the best time to be replacing the leader of a major academic institution.
But the board of regents of the University of North Texas System on Friday terminated Scott Ransom as president of the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, even as the school continues its plan to pursue lawmakers’ approval of an M.D. degree program.
Ransom had been president since 2006, and regents had extended his $904,562 contract on Sept. 1 to run until 2015.
But regents sent him a scathing letter Dec. 18 saying he had undercut efforts to study the possibility of merging the administration of the health science center and the UNT flagship campus in Denton and had sought to undermine a long-term project to have system components share some administrative and business services. (bit.ly/Zp5976)
The letter said Ransom had ignored and disregarded directives from regents and Chancellor Lee Jackson, which “has caused considerable disruption and undermined your leadership.”
After regents voted 7-0 to fire Ransom, he left without responding to reporters, Star-Telegram higher education writer Diane Smith reported Friday online. (bit.ly/Vb84MB)
The merger idea had come to the board in August, but regents didn’t take a vote. Instead, Ransom and UNT Denton President Lane Rawlins were asked to answer questions about the potential impacts on their campuses.
The presidents concluded that there weren’t significant short-term benefits to merging and that long-term benefits were hard to measure, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported in November. (bit.ly/VgW9Zg)
A number of considerations were involved. For instance, combining the calculation of research funding for the Denton and Fort Worth entities could help move UNT closer to the threshold for receiving state money set aside for universities that are progressing toward designation as Tier I research institutions.
However, the Legislature funds health-related schools separately from general universities, so a merger could result in fewer state dollars.
There were concerns about accreditation and also how the national ranking of the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine would be affected by being subsumed. TCOM is one of five colleges at the 1,700-student health science center near Fort Worth’s Cultural District.
The newest component is the UNT System College of Pharmacy, a four-year doctoral program that’s expected to start classes in fall 2013.
Merging administrative functions could mean bringing campuses 41 miles apart under a single president, which would be a significant change.
The regents’ letter said Ransom not only conducted “a personal campaign to stop any serious internal consideration” of the issue but kept talking about his interest in being appointed president after a merger even though he was told that discussion wouldn’t come until later. The letter said he also solicited community opposition to the merger notion.
Regents named Michael Williams, a former board member and a graduate of TCOM and Texas Wesleyan University, as interim president.
He has been CEO of Hill Country Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg and is board certified in anesthesiology and critical care medicine, according to the UNT System website. (untsystem.edu/regents/profiles.htm)
Jackson said in a phone interview with the Editorial Board that Williams has gained the trust of other regents.
UNTHSC supporters are no doubt asking what the upheaval means for Fort Worth’s role in a network whose main academic campus is in Denton and its system headquarters in Dallas.
Jackson said the system’s commitment to Fort Worth wouldn’t be diminished. Those affiliated with the health science center and members of the larger community should hold him to his word.
UNT regents fire president of Fort Worth center, citing ‘disruptive’ opposition to merger talks
Friday, December 21, 2012
The president of the University of North Texas Health Science Center was fired Friday after regents accused him of sowing “internal discord” by opposing a possible merger of the Fort Worth center and the main university campus in Denton.
“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,” regents for the University of North Texas System told Dr. Scott Ransom in a letter dated Tuesday.
The Health Science Center, which has its main campus on Camp Bowie Boulevard in Fort Worth, is affiliated with UNT but operates as an independent campus.
In August, UNT Chancellor Lee F. Jackson announced 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.
The center, which sits on 33 acres, has long been a point of pride in Fort Worth. Even after a merger, the science center would stay in Fort Worth, where it has been since 1970.
But community leaders worried that a merger would force the center to cede too much control and autonomy to officials in Denton.
Last month, Jackson tabled further discussions, saying only that because of “other priorities, now is not the best time to pursue this proposal.”
Publicly, at least, Ransom had expressed support for the study.
“With a continued commitment to expand our programs, our enrollment, and our research in Fort Worth, we look forward to evaluating the possibilities,” he said in an August news release.
But in the Tuesday letter, regents said the president was behaving differently in private. They described his actions as “acute and disruptive.”
“Our concerns about your behavior have nothing to do with the substance of whether the idea of a merger is a good one or not, but instead we are concerned that the internal discord you created actively undermined the ability of the UNT System to conduct a fair and objective examination of this topic that is so important to many of our peer institutions in Texas,” states the letter, which was signed by board chairman Jack Wall, a resident of Dallas who grew up in Fort Worth.
Ransom, who had led the center since 2006, didn’t respond to reporters as he left a meeting room minutes after the regents’ 7-0 vote.
Dr. Michael R. Williams, a former member of the board of regents, was named interm president.
“I’m happy to be here,” said Williams, a native of North Texas and graduate of the center’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. “It’s an exciting time to have an opportunity to give back to my community.”
The letter delivered to Ransom began by saying: “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.”
In September, Ransom’s contract was extended through Aug. 31, 2015.
The merger talks also stirred concerns among members of the UNT Health Science Center Foundation Board, a fund-raising arm for the institution. Several members attended Friday’s meeting to show their support for Ransom.
“It’s an extreme disappointment,” said Allan Howeth, foundation chairman. “He’s been a very capable and dynamic leader for the UNT Health Science Center.”
Howeth and other supporters said they worried that the move would hurt Fort Worth’s effort to become a destination center for health-related fields. They also worried that the move would not sit well with lawmakers who must OK efforts to create an M.D. program at the center, which currently has an osteopathic medical school.
With the merger study off the table, the University of North Texas System renewed its focus on obtaining the M.D. program and top research status for the flagship campus in Denton.
Jackson said that while Ransom’s termination might cause some setbacks in the quest for a medical school, the shift in leadership may bring new opportunities.
Establishing strong ties and gaining the support of Fort Worth’s osteopathic medical community will be keys to pursuing the M.D. program, Jackson said.