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

Among Fox Dean Ronald Anderson’s first actions was to go an apology tour to Fox students, faculty, alumni, and donors. (Courtesy photo)

Tell us about your history with Fox School of Business and when you were approached about becoming interim dean.

I came to Fox in 2012. I had been at American University for a decade prior to coming to Fox. I’m a finance professor, so I started out as chair of the finance department, and I worked on creating a new curriculum, new programming and getting the department turned around. I did that for six years, and it went pretty well.

I guess the rankings issue started in January of 2018, but it took Temple five or six months to get through the Jones Day investigations. So I came down into the dean’s office in July 2018, and that was like two weeks after the prior dean had been dismissed. It was a pretty unsettling, kind of a shocking time for most of us.

So Moshe Porat hired you?

Yes. Dean Porat hired me as the Chair of the Finance Department.

How was your relationship with him, prior to the rankings scandal? What was he like?

That was kind of an evolving relationship, I’m going to be really honest about that. When I first came here, he and I were on very good terms.

As I worked under him more and more, he had a fairly autocratic management style, and I don’t have that type of management style. I’m more of an authentic, genuine manager in the sense that I want people to be who they are. I want to work with them that way. And I kind of expected it back, because I think that’s how you get innovation and entrepreneurship and so forth. So by the time this became public information, I mean, we had a working relationship and professional relationship just because we had to, but it was not a great relationship by that point.

How were you approached about becoming the interim dean?

When the president sent out the announcement that Dean Porat had been fired, I was in a bit of shock. I’ve never seen that before at a university. So over that two week period between his firing and me coming in as an interim, the provost and the president did a series of interviews with some of the senior faculty in the building.

They were incredibly supportive during this period. We wanted to separate the legal issues from the academic issues. The president, provost and I, along with the Board of Trustees, decided that we would focus on handling the academic issues, ensuring that students were taken care of, and that the faculty understood what we were doing. We wanted to build a lot of transparency into the system. One of the things that I think we were all really proud of is that we delivered really good student outcomes, and we wanted to continue doing that.

The first couple weeks were a bit difficult because I was out doing what I call the apology tour. We owed a lot of people, a lot of apologies. And we took ownership of what happened. I think that was really important to our stakeholders and our constituents. It was more than a couple of weeks, I spent a couple months doing the apology tour. When you do stand up and say ‘I’m sorry’, it’s really important that it’s a sincere, authentic, ‘I’m sorry.’

And we were.

Who specifically were you apologizing to?

So the first meeting was with the faculty. I think the faculty were shocked. I mean, Porat had been dean for 22 or 23 years, and he had spent his entire academic career here. Everybody knew him, and they didn’t think this was possible. The first couple of meetings were showing them that it really did happen, that no, not 100% of these kids had GMAT scores.

The second group that was perhaps most important to me was the students. There was kind of an interesting break in the students. The undergraduates weren’t nearly as concerned as the graduate students. Because, as you know, graduate students are really focused on rankings. So I spent a lot of time with our MBA students across all the different programs explaining what happened, that we were very, very sorry that it happened, and the things that we were going to do to make it right.

Next page: What is Fox doing to ensure this never happens again.

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