Attorneys for the ousted dean of Temple University’s Fox School of Business say the U.S. Attorney General’s Office is pursuing a grand jury indictment against M. Moshe Porat and others in coming weeks, according to The Philadelphia Enquirer. Porat, accused by Temple of being the “mastermind” of a scheme to report fraudulent data to U.S. News & World Report to gain higher rankings for the school’s business programs, has publicly denied any wrongdoing.
But recent court filings in a defamation suit brought by Porat against the university for his firing have revealed new details that cast the dean in a poor light. According to both emails and depositions submitted in his defamation case, moving Fox higher up in the rankings became an obsession. The documents show that Porat consistently put pressure on his staff for years to find ways to increase the school’s rankings.
“When results failed to materialize quickly enough, he replaced the team that had overseen the school’s annual submissions with a handpicked group that included a statistics professor charged with reverse engineering the criteria U.S. News used to calculate school scores,” according to the Inquirer.
ONE PORAT AIDE SAYS SHE KNOWINGLY FALSIFIED DATA FOR YEARS AT THE DEAN’S DIRECTION
One Porat aide, Marjorie O’Neill, who oversaw the school’s submissions to U.S. News, told a law firm Temple commissioned to investigate the matter that she knowingly falsified data for years at Porat’s direction. She has since invoked her Fifth Amendment rights and declined to be deposed in the defamation case.
In a deposition in the defamation case last year, Porat’s chief deputy and Fox’s former vice dean, Rajan Chandran, said that as early as 2014, he, Porat, and other top lieutenants were well aware that their national rankings were built on intentional misrepresentations. “I didn’t do anything,” he said. “That’s my mistake. I ought to have reported it.”
U.S. News removed the Fox School off its online MBA ranking in January of 2018 after finding out that the school misreported critical data on its program. Temple had reported that all 255 of the program’s latest incoming class submitted GMAT scores to get into the program with the average score being 619. In fact, the school acknowledged that only 50 students, or 19.6%, submitted GMAT scores. As a result, Temple’s online MBA program, ranked first in the nation by U.S. News, for four consecutive years, was moved to unranked status for 2018.
TEMPLE CLAIMS DEAN ‘CONCEIVED, CONTROLLED AND KEPT HIDDEN’ THE RANKINGS FRAUD
For the first time, Temple singled out Porat as the “mastermind” of the scheme in a court filing last week. “He conceived it, controlled it and kept it hidden, only to try later to cover it up,” attorney Carolyn P. Short wrote. “M. Moshe Porat bears personal responsibility for the Fox School’s intentional submission of false ranking data.”
When Porat was fired in July of 2018, University President Richard M. Englert stopped short of directly blaming the dean, saying only that the faulty data had occurred under his leadership and that an independent investigation concluded administrators had “knowingly” submitted misrepresentations to U.S. News.
Porat, now 74, had led the Fox School for over two decades until the rankings scandal. His lawyers strongly dispute claims that he was primarily responsible for the scandal. They claim that the university has encouraged the U.S. Attorney’s criminal investigation and is trying to turn the former dean into a “scapegoat.”
‘WE NEED ALL EYES ON THESE AND ON THEM NOW’
A year before the scandal became public, some began to question the data the school had given to U.S. News for its ranking. In several emails in 2017, Darin Kapanjie, then head of the online MBA program, raised concerns with Tom Kegelman, the assistant dean in charge of the school’s admissions, according to the Inquirer. He noted inconsistencies in the numbers that he assumed at the time were mistakes.
“We need all eyes on these and on them now,” Kapanjie warned.
Will Reith, then director of Fox’s graduate enrollment, drafted a separate email to O’Neill noting that the school had incorrectly stated that all students in the online MBA program had taken a graduate entrance exam when, in fact, only 42 had done so.
When U.S. News announced months later that it had again ranked Temple at the top of its annual charts, Reith and others were horrified to discover that the errors they had flagged in the data had not been fixed despite assurances that corrections had been made.
‘IF YOU JUST BURNED THE SCHOOL DOWN, I’LL NEVER FORGIVE YOU’
Kegelman confronted O’Neill. “If you just burned the school down, I’ll never forgive you,” he recalled saying in a recent deposition.
The Inquirer noted that he sought to raise the issue in a later meeting, prompting heated debate among Porat and his top administrators. The discussions, however, were cut short and, according to The Inquirer, “ultimately abandoned so they could attend a champagne toast scheduled with Temple’s provost to celebrate the school’s fourth year at the top, Kegelman recalled.”
“Dean Porat said, ‘Well, if they haven’t caught it … what makes you think they will catch it now?’” recalled Christine Kiely, an assistant dean at Fox, during her deposition. “He seemed annoyed that we were talking about it — in essence, turning ourselves in.”
The Inquirer reported that it took two subsequent meetings to persuade Porat to contact U.S. News to correct the inaccurate data, his staff testified. But even afterward, emails show he continued to press Temple’s PR department to publicize the faulty ranking.