In the four years since the Bloch School of Management started feeding flawed data to the Princeton Review, professor Michael Song raked in $1.6 million in salary. That substantial income – Song was the third-highest-paid employee of the entire university this academic year – will no doubt provide some consolation to Song, who has just resigned amid scandal over the Princeton Review entrepreneurship rankings, and a journal ranking that rated him and the University of Missouri-Kansas City Bloch School tops in the world for innovation management education.
“We have outstanding students and excellent programs that I helped create in the Bloch School but my presence has become an unnecessary distraction,” Song, the former director of Bloch’s Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, said in a statement posted by the university. “For the best interests of the students and programs, I have reluctantly decided to resign from UMKC so that everyone can focus on doing the important thing — training the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators.”
Rich stuff, considering the damage done to Bloch’s reputation by the rankings fudgery. “There is no question about the fact that this is a hit to our brand,” university chancellor Leo Morton told university radio station KCUR on Feb. 13.
Bloch’s current dean, Dave Donnelly, earlier this month addressed the Princeton Review data, admitting that “flawed data had been submitted (in) 2011, 2012 and 2013 in three of 40 subject areas. The incorrect data included the number of student clubs, the number of mentoring programs and select enrollment numbers. Two members of the Bloch School faculty submitted inflated statistics in those three categories.”
Bloch’s entrepreneurship program had made the top 25 in each of those years.
‘INDIVIDUAL’ WAS ‘PUSHING THE ENVELOPE’
Regarding the Princeton Review data, Morton did not name Song, but blamed “an individual” who was “pushing the envelope.”
“Even in the corporate world there are those cases where you just cannot predict the actions of a single individual,” Morton said.
The entrepreneurship institute’s then managing director John Norton had expressed concerns to Song about sending “wrong” data to the Princeton Review, but Song insisted the information was acceptable, according to a Pricewaterhouse Coopers audit. Donnelly told PwC he felt Song “was not being upfront with him” about data submitted to the Princeton Review by Song and former dean Ten-Kee Tan, who is no longer employed at the university, after a reported diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
PwC auditors determined that for the Princeton Review data, Song played a key role in using participants from a non-degree “e-scholar” program open to non-students to pad the numbers of formally enrolled entrepreneurship students, and that for a submission concerning the number of graduates who went on to start businesses, that Song submitted data representing only the e-scholars, and no other students. The e-scholar program requires participants to start a business.
The Princeton Review earlier this month kicked Bloch out of the past four years of rankings because of the false data.
OFFICIALS STILL DIGGING THEMSELVES A HOLE
However, Bloch and university officials are still clinging to the mind-boggling assertion that Song’s admitted involvement in the writing of an article in the Journal of Product Innovation Management doesn’t make it invalid. The 2012 article named Song “world’s number one innovation” scholar and called the University of Missouri-Kansas City the top innovation management university on the planet.
“There is absolutely nothing inappropriate about the way that was done,” Morton told the university radio station on Feb. 13.
Song, 53, told PwC he “was very involved in helping clarify the strategy portion of the rankings paper, particularly as it related to UMKC and UMKC’s strategy,” and “may have written parts related to the strategy portion of the paper.”
The article gushes enthusiastically about the university and mentions Song in particular, while making only passing reference to other schools.
The journal also continues to defend the article’s validity, in spite of its VP of publications having told PwC that if it had been ghost-written, that would likely lead to a retraction.
PROMISING IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN
The current managing director of the entrepreneurship center, Jeff Hornsby, wrote in an email to Donnelly in August that the school’s defense of the journal article “continues to deteriorate our credibility and legitimacy,” the Kansas City Star reports.
Clearly, Bloch and university officials are reluctant to let go of the journal ranking, which is not altogether surprising given that the journal put the university ahead of MIT, Stanford, and INSEAD, and that Bloch is unranked by any major publication – not even making the much-maligned Princeton Review.
Song, a Darden MBA and PhD who had been a tenured professor at Michigan State University and the University of Washington, joined the Kansas City school in September of 2004. He founded the entrepreneurship institute in 2005.
The university has endorsed Donnelly’s plan to create a faculty review committee to oversee all rankings applications, Morton told the radio station. “We are doing everything humanly possible to ensure that this does not happen again,” Morton said.