It’s like the cockroach of rankings scandals. It just won’t die.
Almost exactly 10 months after being forced out of his two-decade-long post as dean of Temple University’s Fox School of Business, former Dean Moshe Porat announced today (May 2) he is suing his former school and university President Richard Englert for $25 million in a defamation case.
The 72-year-old Porat, whose relationship with Temple began in 1976 when he immigrated to the U.S. from Israel as a graduate student, alleges that he was unfairly blamed for the reporting of false rankings data to U.S. News and that his reputation — and legacy — were destroyed.
“The administration at Temple took away the job I loved, damaged my health, and destroyed my reputation and the legacy of my life’s work I spent decades building,” Porat said in a lengthy statement published on the website of Clare Locke, the law firm representing him. “They did this with a false narrative invented for its expediency in public relations — and to deflect attention from the University’s own role in all of this. I have been made a scapegoat.”
FORMER DEAN CLAIMS HE IS A SCAPEGOAT FOR THE RANKING SCANDAL
In his statement, the first public comment Porat has made since he was ousted last July, he alleges the school lied about his involvement in the false reporting of key data points, which resulted in Fox’s online MBA program being removed from the U.S. News ranking of online MBA programs.
Porat’s suit will likely have an uphill climb because the university based its decision to fire him on an investigation conducted by a prominent law firm, Jones Day. The firm’s investigators discovered that Dean Porat and other Fox personnel allegedly made clear that improving or maintaining Fox’s position in rankings was a key priority. “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.”
The explosive details in the report portrayed a dean and the people who reported to him—none of whom have been publicly named—of conducting a fraud that was several years in the making, that provided U.S. News inaccurate data across multiple metrics on several degree programs, and that consciously worked to cover up the unethical behavior.
PORAT BLAMES UNIVERSITY FOR FALSIFIED DATA
In his suit and accompanying statement, Porat takes strong exception to the law firm’s findings. “Contrary to the University’s statements, there was never a direction from me — or to my knowledge from anyone in the leadership of the Fox School — to manipulate rankings data or to dismantle oversight,” Porat says. He maintains that he gave “numerous written directives” to Fox staff members instructing them to make sure the data submitted were “accurate and honest.”
“The University disregarded the actual directions I gave — and hid other information from the public — in order to create its false narrative,” Porat says. “The evidence that supports this conclusion, as well as significant other information that the University disregarded in its rush to scapegoat me and my senior staff, is detailed in my court-filed complaint.”
Porat then outlines all of his allegations of falsehoods from the university. According to the statement, Porat claims that he was proactive in bringing the “possibly incorrect” data to the attention of U.S. News and Temple officials in January of 2018 when he first learned of potential issues from staffers at Fox. Next, Porat claims, he temporarily removed the Fox School from other rankings after approval from the Provost while he could “fully restructure” the oversight of the rankings process.
FORMER DEAN SAYS A UNIVERSITY OFFICE WAS CHARGED WITH AUDITING AND VALIDATING RANKINGS DATA
The former dean then punts the final audit and fact-check round to the university’s Institutional Research and Assessment office (IRA). Since 2014, Porat says, the university has required all data for rankings to go through that office, which had the final round of confirmation before sending thedata to the U.S. News and other rankings outlets. “The IRA was supposed to audit and validate the rankings data submitted by all Temple schools and had the ultimate responsibility for verifying data accuracy,” Porat alleges in his statement. “None of this was made public when I was removed as Dean last year.”
Throughout the statement, Porat refers to the university’s actions as well as the handling of the case by Englert as “reckless.”
“Fourth, Temple administrators absolutely knew that I did not knowingly provide false information to rankings agencies or to the University, nor did I falsify any data,” Porat wrote. “I have come to learn that they recklessly disregarded internal emails and interviews in their possession directly contradicting their press releases and the false conclusions the University wanted the public to reach about me.”
THE MASSIVE INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION
For years, Temple’s online MBA program sat perched at the top of the U.S. News rankings. Porat was fired on July 9, 2018, after he refused to step down from his position like the school requested. The decision was made by the university after a highly damaging independent review conducted by the law firm Jones Day found numerous examples of misreported data that could potentially be seen as a fraud, along with evidence of a cover-up.
In January of 2018, it was uncovered that the school reported all 255 of the program’s latest incoming online MBA class submitted GMAT scores to get into the program. In fact, the school acknowledged that only 50 students, or 19.6%, submitted GMAT scores. The U.S. News then moved the program to “unranked” status and Temple hired Jones Day to investigate. More than 32,000 documents were examined and 17 Fox staffers were interviewed during the investigation.
“Fox provided U.S. News with inaccurate information across multiple data metrics that are part of the publication’s OMBA rankings methodology,” the final summary from Jones Day said. “And while Jones Day focused on information that Fox provided to U.S. News relating to the school’s OMBA program, the investigation revealed that Fox provided U.S. News with erroneous information relating to other programs as well. On certain occasions, Fox’s reporting of inaccurate information to U.S. News was done knowingly and intentionally for the purpose of improving or maintaining Fox’s standing in the relevant U.S. News rankings.” (SEE A FULL SUMMARY OF THE JONES DAY REPORT HERE)
Englert didn’t hesitate to place blame on Porat in his announcement of Porat’s termination last summer.
“It is my duty to report that the Fox School, under the leadership of Dean Moshe Porat, knowingly provided false information to at least one rankings organization about the Online MBA,” Englert wrote. “In addition to the misreporting of the number of students who took the GMAT from 2015 to 2018, the average undergraduate GPA was overstated, and there were inaccuracies in the number of offers of admission as well as in the degree of student indebtedness.”
‘I LOVE FOX AND TEMPLE’
In a response from the school to Porat’s lawsuit, officials say they stand by the decision to fire him.
“We said then that integrity is and must be at the heart of Temple’s educational mission,” the school said in a statement, originally published by the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The public must be able to trust what we say and do, and Temple must be counted upon to take the steps necessary to guarantee that trust. … We absolutely deny that Temple’s actions were in any way improper or unjustified, and we look forward to rigorously defending our actions in court.”
Porat says that since he was fired has July his life has been in “constant turmoil” and that the school has continually defamed him since the ouster. “All of this combined has resulted in material financial harm to me and my family,” Porat wrote. “It has caused me considerable emotional distress, negative health-related consequences, and lasting reputational harm.”
In the statement says “not a day goes by” that he doesn’t think about the students and alumni affected by the falsified data.
“At my age, I have learned, experienced, and seen my share of life and I have been blessed with so much. I have stayed at the Fox School for nearly 43 years because I love Fox and Temple,” Porat wrote. “I love the students and I love the people I went to work with every day. I am so proud of what we have accomplished at Fox together, yet also devastated at the thought that students were let down because the University did not give them accurate information.”
(See the next page for Porat’s entire statement.)