Former Fox dean: Temple ‘refused to do the right thing’

Moshe Porat, who was ousted last year, alleged the university used him to cover up institutional failures at a press conference on Thursday.

Former Fox School of Business Dean Moshe Porat announced during a press conference on May 2 at the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue that he is suing Temple for $25 million, alleging the university defamed him and inaccurately blamed him for Fox School of Business' rankings scandal last year. | DYLAN LONG / FILE PHOTO

UPDATE at 5:33 p.m. on May 2, 2019

Moshe Porat publicly accused President Richard Englert and Temple University administrators of defamation for inaccurately blaming Porat for the Fox School of Business’ rankings scandal last year at a press conference on Thursday.

Porat and his attorney Tom Clare claimed the university made Porat a scapegoat for other Fox employees and the Institutional Research and Assessment offices mishandling and misreporting school data to the U.S. News & World Report from 2014-18.

“Until now, I resisted legal action and have tried to negotiate in good faith and reach an honorable resolution with a university that I worked so hard for most of my life,” Porat said.

“But Temple has refused to do the right thing and set the record straight, leaving me no other choice.”

Porat was joined by his wife, two sons, friends and former university faculty at the conference in the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue in West Philadelphia.

The lawsuit calls for the university to pay $25 million as damages for hurting his reputation and the scandal’s impact on his health, Clare said during the press conference. If Porat wins the suit, he will donate a “substantial” amount of the damages to Fox’s Center for Student Professional Development, which Porat co-founded, Clare added.

Tom Clare (right), of Clare Locke LLP, points to his client, former Fox School of Business Dean Moshe Porat (far left), during a press conference at the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue on Thursday. Porat and his legal counsel announced that Porat is suing Temple for $25 million, alleging it defamed him and inaccurately blamed him for Fox’s rankings scandal last year. | DYLAN LONG / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Since 2012, all of the university’s schools have been required to submit rankings data to the institutional research office, which reports to Provost JoAnne Epps. Porat claims that U.S. News inquired in 2016 to Temple’s internal research office about the accuracy of GMAT score data for Fox’s Online MBA program reported that year. A university investigation conducted by Jones Day later found that these scores were misreported to the ranking agency.

Temple allegedly withheld parts of the Jones Day report to redirect blame from the Institutional Research and Assessment office and focus it on Porat, Clare said. Internal documents prove Porat was unaware of falsification, he claimed, though the Jones Day report states Porat changed procedures in mid-2013 to make the information submission process inadequate and “made clear that improving or maintaining Fox’s position in rankings was a key priority.”

“It was the university that elected to take the broader report and release a portion of it to the public, and to put a press release out describing those findings,” Clare said. “What was left in the public communications and what was left out is the basis of this lawsuit.”

Temple’s decision to remove Porat as dean in July 2018 was based on the Jones Day report, a university spokesperson wrote in a statement on Thursday.

“The Jones Day findings are compelling and the university continues to stand by its decision,” the spokesperson wrote. “Dr. Porat’s allegations are meritless. Going forward, we will carefully review his statements made public today to determine any legal remedies the university may pursue.”

The first time Porat said he was made aware of data falsification was in January 2018, when Fox was removed from some U.S. News’ rankings contests and the university launched its investigation, his lawsuit claims. Prior to this, he claimed he had ensured Fox employees provided accurate rankings data to U.S. News, according to the suit.

“Over the years, I gave numerous, numerous written directives imploring Fox staffers to ensure that all of the rankings data submissions were accurate and honest,” Porat said. “In response, I was repeatedly assured that the data submissions were unassailed.”

Porat noted his accomplishments during his decades at the university, including how he helped the school raise $100 million to increase its endowment and improve its facilities, like 1810 Liacouras Walk and Alter Hall.

Porat remains a tenured professor at the university and does receive compensation, but is not responsible for teaching classes at this time, Clare said. He’s prepared to see his case through to trial, the attorney added.

“He has given his entire adult life to Temple and the Fox School,” Clare said. “And so when the university was facing a public relations crisis, is especially insulting that it took the easy way out and made Dean Porat the scapegoat.”

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office and the U.S. Department of Education are investigating the rankings scandal to determine if there are further legal repercussions that go beyond the more than $5 million class-action lawsuit the university settled in December, which was brought by former Fox MBA students.

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