There are at least two sides to school rankings. On one hand, they are calls for transparency from universities that charge a ton of money to attend. On the other, they can cause people in power to do bad things — like fudge data and numbers. And that’s precisely what one whistleblower at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management alleged the administration was doing. In December 2016, Richard Arend, a tenured professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at Bloch, was fired for what the school called a “substantial lack of fitness.” In June, Arend retaliated, claiming the school fired him for his five-year crusade to raise awareness of the school’s systematic and orchestrated inflation and falsification of data that led to undeserved accolades, including a No. 1 ranking in 2012 for research in innovation management from the scholarly Journal of Product Innovation Management and four years of top-25 rankings in entrepreneurship from the Princeton Review.
Even after the school was remonstrated by the Journal and stripped of its Princeton Review rankings, Arend didn’t let up, calling for the school to return an award from the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship that he said also was awarded based on false data, and fighting to restore his reputation. As of late 2018 he was still fighting, while the University of Missouri’s provost admitted that the fired prof “did bring genuine problems and issues to the media’s attention” — while adding that “any claim that his dismissal was retaliation for that exposure is demonstrably false by the actual evidence.”
Last year’s college admissions scandal made headlines because of the celebrities involved. But some high-profile MBAs were caught up in it, too.
Three Harvard Business School MBA graduates and two Stanford Graduate School of Business MBAs, including a member of the school’s Advisory Council, were among the 33 wealthy and well-connected parents charged with attempting to fraudulently get their children into top universities. At least one of them was allegedly willing to pay $1 million to insure that his two daughters would be admitted to Harvard and Stanford.
Two of the biggest names in the criminal complaint are William E. McGlashan Jr., who earned his MBA from Stanford in 1990, serves on GSB’s Advisory Council, and is the managing partner of TPG Growth; and Douglas M. Hodge, a Harvard MBA and former chief executive of PIMCO, one of the world’s biggest bond fund managers.
Without naming McGlashan, Stanford GSB Dean Jonathan Levin said he had placed McGlashan on leave from the school’s Advisory Council pending the outcome of the charges. “The alleged behavior falls far short of the ethical conduct we expect of any member of the GSB community, and especially one serving the school in an important capacity,” he wrote in an email to the school’s community in March 2019. It may be a while before McGlashan is out of the woods: In October federal authorities added more charges, including wire fraud. He faces several; years in prison but continues to fight the charges. Hodge was sentenced in May to nine months in prison after pleading guilty to using fraud and bribes to try to get five of his children into exclusive colleges as fake athletic recruits.
Never mind Stanford’s capture of the No. 1 spot in the 2018 Financial Times global MBA ranking, at the time only the second time in 23 years of FT rankings that the GSB had gained top honors (they would repeat the feat in 2019). The single biggest surprise that year was the absence of one of Europe’s most successful higher education institutions: IE Business School. The Spanish school had been in every single FT ranking from the very start in 1999, and in 2017 was ranked eighth best in the world and third best in Europe.
What happened? IE cheated — and got caught. Though FT would say only that “irregularities” had caused IE’s exclusion, the school itself later announced in a letter to alumni and IE’s senior leaders that it could not rule out the possibility of “wrongdoing” by IE staffers that resulted in the newspaper’s decision to remove the school from its ranking for the first time ever. What happened? Helen Barrett, the FT’s editor for work & careers, told Poets&Quants that the issue with IE’s submissions became apparent when the newspaper’s data editors ran a routine series of about 20 different checks on the data that comes in from both schools and alumni it surveys. “Through our checks, we found a handful of surveys completed by people other than the alumni named on the form, and at five we stopped counting,” Barrett explained. “We alerted IE, who were unable to explain what had happened.”
IE fired two staffers and asked for the resignation of another, then reassigned the management of the rankings from external relations to Martin Boehm, dean of the business school. IE was restored to FT‘s good graces in 2019, returning to the Global MBA ranking at the 31st spot, 23 places below its last position. But in 2020 the school dropped even further, to 52nd, presumably for reasons entirely unrelated to the scandal.