By now, you have had to be on an island in the Pacific without Internet not to know of the repetitional damage that has been done to Temple University’s Fox School of Business by its disgraced former dean. Caught cooking the ranking books, Dean M. Moshe Porat was asked for his resignation on Monday of last week after an independent investigation found that his school knowingly committed fraud to gain higher rankings on its MBA from U.S. News.
Defiant to the last minute, Porat refused to resign and was forced out by University President Richard M. Englert. What he has left behind is a complete mess: Accreditation agencies are now looking into the rankings fraud. Former students are joining an existing class action suit against the university. The state attorney general’s office has opened a probe into the scandal. Even U.S. News is finally looking into the school’s historical reports to see if further action is warranted.
In short, the reputational damage to the business school is easily into the tens of millions of dollars. The likely legal costs for everything from the investigation by the law firm of Jones Day to defending the university against both the class action suit and other legal actions could easily approach $10 million. The scam likely resulted in an increase of the school’s annual intake of more than 600 students who can rightly claim to have been defrauded by the scandal. They applied, were admitted and then enrolled, decisions made in the belief that the school’s online program was best in the U.S. for four consecutive years. The loss of future student revenue (after all, who is crazy enough to apply and enroll in a Temple MBA program today?) will be in the millions of dollars in the short-term alone.
WOULD-BE STUDENTS SHOULD AVOID TEMPLE’S BUSINESS SCHOOL LIKE THE PLAGUE
As Wharton is known for finance and Kellogg for marketing, Temple will now be known as the rankings cheat, thanks to its former dean. If you’re a would-be business student, you should avoid Temple’s business school like the plague. Go to Drexel, St. Joseph’s or Villanova. Leave the state and attend a business school in New Jersey, New York or Delaware. Go anywhere other than Temple. The damage done by this scandal is far from over.
Tossing a scam artist on his butt on Liacouras Walk outside Fox’s Alter Hall, however, is hardly enough. At the very least, Temple University should sue Porat to recover the more than $2 million in pay that he received during the four years in which the school cheated by deliberately reporting false information to U.S. News to increase its standing in MBA rankings. Porat should also be stripped of tenure so that the university can insure that it never has to put another penny into the pockets of a crook.
Tenure, of course, can be revoked when a dean or professor is guilty of either moral turpitude or gross incompetence. At many schools, stripping someone of tenure must be done by a faculty committee. At Temple, the university administration should unilaterally revoke Porat’s status for both moral turpitude and gross incompetence.
SHAMEFUL THAT SOME FACULTY ARE SAYING THE DEAN WAS UNFAIRLY PUSHED OUT
Shockingly, some of the faculty at Temple are already making excuses for their former dean. That in itself is utterly shameful. The former dean’s supporters claim that Porat was pushed out too quickly for a rankings scandal discovered under his watch, according to a report by The Inquirer. “They argue that the Jones Day law firm report released last week doesn’t make clear that he personally ordered numbers to be manipulated.” The Inquirer quotes an unidentified finance professor asking, “Have we sacrificed due process for expediency?”
In fact, the Jones Day investigative team–which pored over more than 32,000 documents and interviewed 17 Fox staffers, including several multiple times–was a thorough probe of what occurred at the school. Jones Days findings are nothing less than a total indictment of the school’s former dean. Porat, after all, was not sacked because he failed to exercise proper oversight. He was tossed out because he was directly involved in the scandal. The Jones Day probe found that “the employee principally responsible for rankings surveys knowingly misreported that all new program entrants had provided GMAT scores to Fox, and allegedly did so at the Dean’s direction in the presence of another employee.” Not surprisingly, the Dean and the other employee deny that such direction was given.
“Fox had in place a concerted, rankings-focused strategy including detailed analyses of U.S. News’s rankings methodology and strategies tied to specific U.S. News data metrics, which strategy was promoted internally by the Dean and other Fox personnel,” the investigation found. “The environment fostered by the school’s emphasis on rankings contributed to the reporting of inaccurate information to U.S. News. Moreover, the Dean’s focus on rankings, coupled with his personal management style, caused Fox personnel who interacted with the Dean on ranking-related matters to feel pressure to perform in this regard.”
Yet, those damning findings only touch the surface of the fraud because it was Porat who, the report found, initiated a change in procedure so that Fox would no longer have in place adequate checks and balances in the process for compiling, verifying, and submitting information to U.S. News. Porat moved this change forward in mid-2013, apparently to allow fewer people oversight into what was about to happen.
ACADEMIC FLUNKIES ARE LINING UP TO SUPPORT THIS DISGRACED LEADER
In 2012, Temple’s online program, which then enrolled just 18 students, was ranked 28th. In that year, Fox told U.S. News that only a third of its enrolled students submitted a GMAT score, with the average score at 550. That was, in all probability, the last “clean” ranking the program received. Two years later, after Dean Porat then got rid of the oversight that would have exposed the more blatant cheating that was about to come, Fox’s online MBA program took first place in U.S. News. The school then claimed that 100% of its enrolled students submitted GMAT scores, up from just a third, and that the average score was now 638, 88 points higher than it was two years earlier. Of course, those stats were completely false as were other metrics reported to U.S. News.
Arvind Parkhe, chair of the strategic management department at Fox, whom Porat recruited from Indiana University, even showered his former boss with praise. “Porat is what we call a ‘dean’s dean,’” Parkhe told the Inquirer. “He attracted meter movers to the faculty, people who make an impact in research, corporate outreach, and executive training.” Please….
The flunkies lining up to support this disgraced leader need to take a hard look in the mirror test themselves. Ethical behavior is a vital part of management education. To have the top leader of a business school caught with his hands in the rankings cookie jar is an unforgivable offense, especially when the consequences to the school and its future are so severe. All the good that Porat achieved has been erased by incredibly bad judgment and unethical behavior–and not just in one had decision. The fraud went on for at least four years. It involved multiple programs and multiple rankings. It also involved a cover up.
Clawing back the more than $4 million in pay this dean made while he cheated is hardly an unreasonable action given the massive damage he has now done to the reputation of the school. No honest faculty member should want him as a tenured colleague on the staff.