The Bad Boys of OHSU, at $151,163 a page


Well, the big report on the sexual misconduct scandals at Oregon Health & Science University is out, and boy, does it ever paint an unflattering picture. Unflattering, but also unsurprising. The workplace culture up there is toxic, and legitimate complaints go nowhere. We all knew that.

But we had to have Covington & Burling, an out-of-state big-bucks law firm, confirm it for us, I guess. Former Attorney General Eric Holder was in charge, at $2,295 an hour, and his underling billed out at $1,445 an hour. Apparently Holder graciously granted OHSU a 10 percent discount on his fee, and so I guess he only charged $2,065.50 an hour. Such a mensch.

The latest story in the O about the investigation puts the final price tag at $6.5 million for the 51-page report. Actually, eight of the pages are cover pages, and so the real page count is 43 at best (if you include a signature page). That works out to $151,163 per page, which I believe is the current value of the Guttenberg Bible.

Almost as bad as the price tag for the obvious was the way the O decided to play it. They sent Maxine Bernstein, one of their best people, in on the story, but she came up with about the blandest lead paragraph you can imagine given the subject matter:

Oregon Health & Science University lacks clear policies on handling, documenting and investigating reported misconduct, leading to inconsistent discipline and a lack of trust among staff and students, an inquiry by former Attorney General Eric Holder’s law firm found.

"Lacks clear policies on handling, documenting." Wow, how boring is that? The reader starts thinking, "Maybe Dear Abby has something good today." But wayyyy down in the story, almost at the end, Bernstein finally gets around to the good stuff, including:

“Many in the OHSU community believe that employment decisions such as hiring, promotion, and firing are made based on factors other than merit, such as connections, power, status, position, and influence in the organization,” the report said....

One focus group participant remarked, “I have made reports in the past that were not taken seriously and I was forced into a meeting where I was told I was imagining the problem.”

One manager told investigators that when she reported sexual harassment to the Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Office, she was asked a series of questions about her clothing, suggesting she elicited the behavior.

But probably the most laughable part of the O story is the headline, which in fairness, Bernstein may not have written:

Got it, folks? He apologized. That's what's important. Everything's going to be fine now. How classic Portland Polite. No awkward moments for the milquetoast O editors when they run into their doctor friends at the spa.

In any event, we now have a wonderful report, suitable for framing, and it's up to the suits on Pill Hill to make changes to hold bad actors accountable up there. I'm sure they'll get right on that. The greatness of an institution is its people.

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