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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Med school shake-up proves not all change is good

    We’ve been hearing about change for several months now, and many of us have come to believe that change is inherently good. President Barack Obama took an unremarkable word and made it glorious; the word came to inspire hope.

    But change is just change – nothing more, nothing less. It can be good, or it can be bad. Sadly, though, it seems that we’ve forgotten this.

    Take, for instance, the UA Transformation Plan, that ongoing and vague process that promises to streamline our university and make it better, faster, stronger. That’s change. Is it good? Maybe. Is it bad? Who knows? Regardless, change is happening on a daily basis around campus. But unlike the Obama campaign, the UA’s changes aren’t promising hope for a brighter future. Many of the changes are eating away at the heart and soul of our school.

    The Daily Wildcat reported Monday that students in the UA College of Medicine are protesting the “”new direction”” the college is taking by demoting Associate Dean of Student Affairs Christopher Leadem, the man who knows students by name and takes the time to listen to individual concerns and problems. This shake-up in the administration is a change for the worse, and such changes will prove detrimental to the UA at large.

    Leadem isn’t just another administrator whose job has been axed in the wake of declining funds. He didn’t quit and wasn’t fired. Leadem was forced out of his job and demoted to a teaching position. Why? Because the UA is changing.

    The Arizona Daily Star reported that several students claim the UA wants to take the school in a direction “”more focused on research than on taking care of its students and teaching them to be compassionate physicians.””

    Now, you may not have a vested interest in our medical school or in Leadem’s case, but the repercussions stemming from this one demotion of this one man will undoubtedly affect us all. Superficially, this issue most immediately impacts current medical students, many of whom were depending on letters of recommendation from former Dean Leadem for their future jobs. But on a deeper level, similar personnel changes will adversely affect you, me and UA students 10 years from now.

    The decision to demote Leadem was unnecessary and not in the best interests of students, said Assistant Dean of Student Affairs of Clinical Family and Community Medicine Larry Moher, who also made it explicit that Leadem “”does not want to go out this way.”” Moher went on to say, “”I can’t think of a reason why this happened, and I’m afraid of what’s going to happen to the school.””

    You and me both, Larry.

    I’m afraid because Leadem is a man who gives character to the bricks and glass of the university. Without administrators and educators like him, we’re left with an enormous campus skeleton that is devoid of any personality. Leadem prizes students over test scores, and he values qualities like respect, honesty, compassion and accountability. I’ve never met Dr. Leadem, but I know these things. I know these things because this is what his students are saying, because these are the words to which the higher-ups are deaf.

    When students are up in arms over one man’s demotion, you can bet that there’s just cause behind their actions. Students are frustrated, confused and livid over Leadem’s ousting. If students’ opinions count for naught, then why enroll at an institution that devalues its students to nothing more than their pocketbooks? This is a question the UA must sort out before it discourages too many students from applying and matriculating.

    The Leadem ousting sets a precipitous precedent at the UA, by demonstrating how easily and swiftly change can take place. If this well-liked senior dean can become a casualty of change, then I’m willing to bet very few jobs are truly safe. Moreover, the decision to demote Leadem demonstrates a fundamental lack of respect for students, since it yanks the rug out from under their feet while they’re shouting their opposition.

    What’s more, Leadem was an essential recruiting tool for the UA College of Medicine, for his effervescent personality and likeability made him a unique selling point for potential students. His demotion, then, makes me question the university’s recruitment strategy. If the UA is trying to make itself look as unappealing as possible, then it has succeeded magnificently.

    Although I do not know Leadem personally, his dismissal from his post has impacted my life in a very tangible way. You see, I’m currently deciding between two medical schools – or at least I was, until this happened. I was torn between the UA College of Medicine in Phoenix and a school in Pennsylvania. Now, it seems that decision has been made for me, since I cannot fathom enrolling at a school that engages in such shameful conduct, even at a different campus a hundred miles away.

    In light of this utter fiasco, I urge the higher-ups of our school to reconsider their position of sightless change, for not all change is equally good. In fact, some change is just plain rotten.

    That vile stench just might send the wrong message to students, parents, donors and future applicants.

    Justin Huggins is a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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