FUDGING ANSWERS BY MAKING ‘QUESTIONABLE INTERPRETATIONS OF SURVEY QUESTIONS’
Fox also fudged answers to questions from U.S. News by adopting what Jones Day termed “questionable interpretations of survey questions. “As part of its Online MBA survey, U.S. News asks for the number of new entrants who provided GRE scores and the mean quantitative, verbal, and analytical writing scores (components of the GRE) among those entrants,” according to the Jones Day report. “When preparing survey responses on this metric, the employee principally responsible for rankings surveys consistently converted GRE scores to GMAT scores for purposes of reporting the total number of GMAT test takers, and then reported that zero entrants had provided GRE scores. As a consequence, these Fox survey responses indicated no GRE takers and no GRE scores.
“With respect to class size, U.S. News asks for the average class size of courses that are part of the OMBA program. For at least the 2016 through 2018 U.S. News rankings, Fox reported the average class size on the basis of a student-to-faculty ratio, dividing the number of students in a class by the total number of instructors and “academic coaches” assigned to the class. With respect to technical staff, U.S. News’s OMBA survey asks for (a) the number of fulltime and part-time technical staff the school employed to offer technical assistance to OMBA faculty members, and (b) the number of faculty members at the institution those technical staff are employed to assist. For at least the 2016 through 2018 rankings, Fox likely underreported the number of faculty at the institution that the full-time technical staff support, resulting in an inflated ratio of full-time technology support personnel to supported faculty members.”
EVIDENCE OF A COVER-UP
The law firm also found evidence of a cover-up, noting that inaccurate data were explicitly identified by the employee principally responsible for rankings surveys or by Fox personnel reviewing the draft responses, but were not corrected prior to submission. “For example, during September 2017, Fox personnel raised concerns about the accuracy of the draft survey responses for the 2018 OMBA rankings with the employee principally responsible for rankings surveys, the supervisor of this employee, and others at Fox<” according to the report. “Despite these communications, the previously flagged inaccuracies were not corrected prior to the submission of the survey responses.”
Jones Day also noted that U.S. News had reached out to Fox on at least two occasions with questions relating to certain data that Fox had included in a survey response. “Most notably, in November 2016, U.S. News emailed the employee principally responsible for rankings surveys and others regarding Fox’s survey response (for the then-yet-to-be-published 2017 OMBA rankings) that all 198 of the program’s new entrants had provided GMAT scores as part of their applications,” according to the investigation. “In its inquiry, U.S. News noted that Fox’s website indicated that it granted waivers of the GMAT requirement and questioned the accuracy of the reported GMAT information. The employee responded to this email without substantively addressing the accuracy of this GMAT information, and the inaccurate information was never corrected.”
TEMPLE PRESIDENT CITES AN ‘UNDUE FOCUS ON RANKINGS’
The employee who was in charge of gathering and reporting the data was not identified. A spokesperson for Temple declined to say whether any other staffers were either reprimanded or ousted. “We will take all appropriate steps,” said Ray Betzner, associate vice president for communications at Temple. “However, out of respect for the privacy of our employees, we will not discuss specific employment actions.”
Regardless, Englert laid the entire blame on Dean Porat and the culture he created. “It was the dean’s initiative to disband a longstanding committee charged with ensuring the accuracy of rankings data,” added Englert. “This absence of checks and balances, together with an undue focus on rankings, enabled such misreporting. While we are committed to determining the nature and extent of possible incorrect data reporting regarding other academic programs at Fox, one thing is clear: This is contrary to the fundamental value of integrity that is at the heart of our academic mission.”
Englert said he and Provost JoAnne A. Epps asked Dean Porat to step down effective immediately as dean. “An interim dean will be identified, and we will begin a national search for a permanent dean as soon as possible,” he said. “Temple’s values and culture have guided us successfully since 1884. They are guiding me now in today’s decision. While I am deeply saddened by these developments, I am confident we are taking the right steps to address this issue. Our message here is simple: What happened at the Fox School cannot be allowed to happen again at Temple.”
The school said that Provost Epps will share additional information on a series of measures, including a new university-wide policy regarding rankings, more robust checks and balances for rankings data collection and reporting, and new data analytics staff. We are also sharing information with our various accrediting bodies, as well as the U.S. Department of Education.