Lance Nail took over the deanship at Texas Tech’s Rawls College of Business in 2012 pledging to build trust and respect among the school’s stakeholders. Three years later, he has resigned after an MBA-program scandal that will no doubt set back trust and respect toward the school for years.
Nail had come to Rawls after four years as dean of the University of Southern Mississippi College of Business. Shortly after arriving at the Texas business school, he said he was looking to boost recognition of “what a great teaching and learning environment we have for our students.” He also said, in the university’s online magazine Discoveries, that heightening trust and respect for the school was another key goal, “because if you don’t have the trust and respect of everyone who’s involved, you won’t go anywhere.”
Now, a report from a faculty panel investigation has reached a damning conclusion: when five MBA students complained to Nail about their final grades in one professor’s Spring 2015 graduate-level statistics class, marks that could prevent them from graduating and finding jobs, he unilaterally improved the grades of four of them. When he later came under investigation over the changes, Nail argued that professor Jay Conover had “acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in assigning grades to the four students whose grades were changed,” the investigation report says. Conover claims the dean forced him out of Rawls over the grading dispute. And Conover has issued a public demand for Texas Tech to strip the four students of their “bogus MBA degrees.”
AN END RUN AROUND THE GRADE-CHANGE PROCESS
The faculty panel report details an apparent end run by Nail around the school’s process for handling disputed grades. After the students complained about their grades from Conover’s class, Nail enlisted another faculty member to write and administer an alternate exam for the students – but didn’t tell the faculty member what the test was for. The grades were changed, after the exam, for four of the five students. Even assuming hypothetically that student complaints about Conover’s teaching, his interpersonal relationships with students, and grading practices might have warranted changing one or more of the five final grades, Nail would’ve had two months to determine that via the mandated grade-appeal process, the panel found. The changes involved Ds changed to As and Bs, and a C changed to an A, Conover told the local paper.
Conover had taught at Rawls for 37 years, and run the school’s MBA programs from 2001 to 2012. This year, he was moved – at Nail’s behest, Conover claims – to the university’s math and stats department, as Horn Professor of Statistics.