New Temple Fox Dean: Ranking Scandal ‘Could Never Happen Again’

Ron Anderson was named dean of Temple University’s Fox School of Business in July 2019, a year after the ousting of Moshe Porat in the wake of the biggest rankings scandal in business school history. He talked with Poets&Quants of his years-long process to rebuild the school’s reputation. (Courtesy photo)

When he was first appointed interim dean of Temple University’s Fox School of Business in July 2018, finance department chair Ronald Anderson thought, perhaps naively, that the school would see a quick turnaround from the rankings scandal that had embroiled his predecessor. Jones Day, the outside law firm Temple hired to investigate the scandal, would release its report, Anderson believed, the school would act swiftly and accordingly, and everyone would move on.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

By the time Anderson was offered the deanship full-time a year later, Temple Fox’s reputation was in tatters. His predecessor, fired dean Moshe Porat, was facing increased scrutiny for his role in the scandal, including from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. As details trickled out, it became more clear it was not a clerical error, but an orchestrated effort to knowingly submit false data to a prominent rankings magazine. Lawsuits would soon follow, first by students who had been defrauded by the scheme and then by Porat himself. Eventually, Porat would be charged (and later convicted) in federal court.

Ousted Temple Fox Dean Moshe Porat

TRIAL UNEARTHED DETAILS UNKNOWN TO FOX STAFFERS

Anderson had hesitated to take on the job of rebuilding Fox, a process that he knew would likely take many years. “One of the things that I always knew in academia, but perhaps I didn’t know as strongly as I do now: We are nothing but our reputations–as researchers, as teachers, and as institutions. We have to hold that as a really, really high standard that we would never touch,” Anderson tells Poets&Quants.

On March 11, former Fox dean Moshe Porat was sentenced to 14 months in prison for his part in the scandal that tore down the business school he’d spent more than two decades building. He was the first university administrator criminally charged and convicted for cheating in rankings, and Judge Gerald J. Pappert of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania delivered a scathing rebuke of Porat from the bench.

Porat’s sentencing brought to a close a saga stretching more than four years. (See Anatomy Of A Business School Rankings Fraud.) In November 2021, a jury convicted Porat on one count each of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud for repeatedly lying to U.S. News & World Report in order to boost Fox’s performance in its online and part-time MBA rankings. After seven days of testimony, it took the jury less than an hour to return a guilty verdict. Two other Fox staffers–Marjorie O’Neill, who submitted the false data, and statistics professor Isaac Gottlieb, who reverse-engineered the U.S. News methodology–pleaded guilty for their roles and are scheduled to be sentenced in May.

AN END TO THE SAGA, AND A NEW BEGINNING

Across town, a short 12-minute drive from the Philadelphia courtroom, Anderson and other Fox faculty watched the scandal unfold in media coverage from the trial and the sentencing. They learned of details they’d never heard before from stories with often salacious headlines: “‘I Paid For Fine Dining, But I Got McDonald’s’” or “Trying To Head Off An Independent Probe, Temple Fox Dean Tells Provost ‘If You’re In A Hole, Don’t Dig’”.

Porat’s sentencing arrived with a mix of embarrassment and relief. While the fraud was more egregious than previously believed, it put an end to the saga that had overshadowed Anderson’s and Fox’s efforts to rebuild.

Anderson recently connected with Poets&Quants via Zoom to talk about those efforts. In a long and candid interview, Anderson talked about his and the school’s reaction to Porat’s trial, prison sentence, and why Anderson believes such a scandal could never again happen at Fox. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

NEXT PAGE: P&Q’s interview with Fox Dean Ronald Anderson

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