CELEBRATING A BOGUS RANKING: ‘I THINK THAT WAS PRETTY STUPID’
Thursday morning began with more video clips from Porat’s video depositions taken over five days in the summer of 2020. In the clips, Porat, born in Poland and educated in Israel, speaks in a thick accent and becomes increasingly agitated as the interviewers challenge his version of events.
They are, perhaps, the only chance the jurors will get to hear from Porat himself. Defense has so far given no indication that they intend to call him to testify.
In the videos, Porat is questioned about a series of congratulatory messages he approved after he knew the rankings were flawed. He approved the first at 2:39 p.m. January 9, 3 ½ hours after he learned of the 100% GMAT submission that had sent his business school into a panic.
“Greetings!” the email drafted for Temple recruiters read. “It may be a new year, but at the Fox School of Business, some things haven’t changed. For four straight years, the fox online MBA ranks No. 1 in the nation.”
Why, the interviewer asked, did he approve this message when he knew the ranking was likely wrong?
“The answer is that today, I think that was pretty stupid,” Porat answered. “The pressures at the time were to get it out … And I think it slipped my mind. Retrospectively, I think it was a mistake.”
‘DO YOU THINK DONORS WOULD COMMIT SUICIDE?’
Interviewer: You think that between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on January 9 that it slipped your mind that false information had been sent to U.S. News and World Report?
“I don’t know,” he answered.
Porat approved more congratulatory messages on January 18 and January 22, including a news release and an email to a donor distribution list. The subject: “No 1. Online MBA, No. 2 online BBA – again.”
“So it’s another mistake that you made?” the interviewer asked.
“It’s the same mistake. I admit that this was a little too premature.”
“And you sent it to donors, the people who give the university money?”
Porat, combative and annoyed, responded: “What do you think the donor would do? Commit suicide? Stop sending money? … This was one item in the entire portfolio of what the school is all about.”
A NEW STORY ABOUT THE INFAMOUS CHAMPAGNE TOAST
In clips showed yesterday afternoon to the jury, Porat adamantly testified that he would not have toasted the No. 1 ranking after learning that it was possibly linked to false information. He claimed in those clips that the toast had been held a week before the Poets&Quants article on January 9, while the ranking was still under embargo by U.S. News.
In clips showed today, the interviewer confronted Porat with email invites from his executive assistant of nearly 20 years. The invites were sent to Temple President Richard Englert and Provost JoAnne Epps: “Please join us tomorrow, Tuesday, January 9, in the seventh floor commons at 1:15 p.m. for a special rankings announcement and a champagne toast.”
Does that refresh your recollection? The interviewer asked.
The Porat on the television screen could not have been more different than the Porat sitting at the defense table. As the Porat in the video became more animated and angry, the Porat in the courtroom sat with his hands clasped in front of him.
‘ARE YOU MAKING THIS UP RIGHT NOW?’
“I think the sequence probably, now, is that we had a meeting, we discussed all sorts of other topics, we went up to the champagne toast, and when we came down, we heard the story of that blogger,” he testified in the video, referring to the Poets&Quants article by P&Q founder and editor John A. Byrne.
Interviewer: “Are you changing your testimony from yesterday where you said the Poets&Quants issue was discussed at the Dean’s meeting at 11 o’clock in the morning that day?”
Porat: “I’m confused a little bit with a timeline, but that’s why I think it was probably stretching into the afternoon because I think that we had our regular meeting …. We probably went up for the toast, and afterwards we came back and then just started rolling on that story …”
Interviewer: “Are you making this up right now?”
Porat: “Excuse me, you put the words 11 o’clock in my mouth, okay? I don’t have a memory of when the meeting started, what was before the meeting, and what was throughout the meeting, and when they exactly showed up … Okay, let’s sum up the normal order of events. What I’m –”
Interviewer: I’m not asking you about the normal order of events. What I’m asking you –
“It is my opinion,” Porat interrupted. “Am I entitled to that? Now ask your question.”
More About The Temple Rankings Scandal
How It Happened: Anatomy Of A Business School Rankings Fraud
Jones Day Investigation: Temple Dean Sacked Over Ranking Scandal
MBA Rankings: Why Business Schools Are Willing To Cheat
Trial Coverage: Trial Begins For Ousted Temple Dean In Rankings Fraud Case