Interim dean of the Fox School of Business: ‘We own this problem’

Ron Anderson, the former chair of the Department of Finance, did a Q&A with The Temple News’ incoming Editor in Chief. He is stepping into the role of dean through 2020, while the university toils with national and state agency investigations for misreporting data to the U.S. News & World Report.

Ron Anderson, the interim dean of the Fox School of Business, said his main goal during his deanship is to make the scandal-stained school "attractive again." PHOTO COURTESY | BETSY MANNING/TEMPLE UNIVERSITY

Ron Anderson has a lofty goal: to repair the Fox School of Business’s image.

Anderson is the interim dean of the school and will remain in the position until the completion of a national search set to begin in the 2019-20 academic year. He was appointed to the position less than two weeks ago.

His promotion comes at a time when the school, long touting its high rankings in the U.S. News & World Report, was found to have falsified years of data in several of its programs. Former Dean Moshe Porat, who was in the leadership position since 1996, was asked to resign. The school is now being investigated by state and national agencies for allegedly misleading students while boosting its program’s recognition.

The Temple News incoming Editor in Chief Gillian McGoldrick spoke with Anderson on Wednesday about what changes he will make, what he has to say to students and why he’s best to lead the school forward.

The following is a Q&A interview between McGoldrick and Anderson. It has been edited for length and clarity.

GM: You’re stepping into this role as the dean of the Fox School of Business at a time filled with controversy and scandal. Why are you the best fit to take on this role?

RA: First off, there’s a lot of great people at Fox here. But I think what perhaps makes my qualifications good for this point in time is that I’ve had both corporate and academic experience. I worked for 12 years in the corporate world, then I’ve been in academia now for about 16 or 17… I think my corporate experience plays well with the outside world. I think it brings me a lot of management experience that comes with it. I also get the academic side of this, obviously having been a professor. And another thing that perhaps plays deeply into this is that the type of work I do in my research, it specifically deals with some of the types of issues that we’re encountering here. It focuses on governance — how institutions are governed to achieve their objectives. And the other area where I study a lot is something called “internal control systems.” We probably had a failure of an internal control system here, and it’s something that we started implementing.

GM: Can you share the main pillars of what your goals are as the interim dean of the Fox School?

RA: My main pillar here is I want to make the Fox School look attractive again to the external world and to students. We have stained ourselves a little bit here. So I want to make this look attractive. But more than look attractive, I want it to be attractive. I want to have really high-quality programs, I want internal control systems in place and I want a culture that values integrity and credibility.

GM: What steps will you take to start in repairing the Fox School of Business’ image?

RA: Some of the things that have been done: we’ve made some pretty significant personnel changes already. I’ve also started restructuring some of the departments in the school to ensure that we have better internal control procedures, that there’s checks and balances. If someone is making a decision, then someone is checking it. And if it’s not right, we’re balancing off to do the right thing. I’m refocusing the organization so that we’re not so rankings oriented. In fact, I don’t want to be rankings oriented. I want to be focused on high-quality programs, and I want to focus on student outcomes.

GM: Can you expand a little bit more on the personnel changes that have happened? Were these mainly in the Dean’s Office?

RA: The issue I run into there is, you know about the big one there –– the dean was replaced. The issue I run into is that we have to protect people’s privacy. We want to make sure that they can have a career afterwards, so I can’t really talk too much about it.

GM: The report by Jones Day found that there was a “culture” that fostered an environment for falsifying data. How will you be sure to change that?

RA: I think there’s a couple points there. I think the biggest one is that we have to get off the rankings game. Rankings are important, and I don’t want to underestimate that. Students make decisions based on rankings. But, what’s more important for students is the outcome. Did they get a good job? Did they get into graduate school? Did they get the life experiences they wanted from their education? And so, part of what I’m doing, is that I’m working with the new staff and the faculty to tell them that we are going to reorient ourselves to a value proposition and that we’re going to be focusing on student outcomes.

GM: Were you and other department chairs aware that under the guidance of Moshe Porat, several programs had falsified its data to the U.S. News & World Report?

RA: No. I learned about it the exact same time that everybody else did on July 9. I’ll be honest with you, I sat there and I had to read that memo three or four times. I was just shocked on the one hand and embarrassed on the other hand.

GM: Just like you said, you were shocked –– many students and alumni are shocked. Many are upset, with some students who have even sued the school. What do you have to say to these students who are upset?

RA: First of all, I’d like to apologize. I sincerely apologize to the students. What happened is beneath the faculty and staff here. I mean, this is not what we do at Fox. We’re a place of great credibility and integrity. We didn’t show it here. I apologize to these people. But more than an apology, I’m going to fix it. We own this problem. We will fix this problem. This will not happen again.

GM: The School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management has kind of been thrust into this scandal, despite not falsifying any of its data. Will you be able to meet this school’s needs while you’re also their interim dean?

RA: One of the things that’s important, and I’ve apologized to the faculty in STHM as well. They’ve taken it on the chin here. Also in the dean’s office here, the associate dean of faculty came from STHM and between he and I, and I actually sat here in my office with the associate dean from STHM. He and I had a long talk. We will protect STHM through this. Temple is a healthy institution. This is painful, let’s be honest, but we will work through it.

GM: How will you balance improving the school’s culture and programs while being investigated at a state and national level?

RA: Temple is a really big institution. The provost, the president and I are well-aligned on how we’re doing this. The provost and the president have devoted tremendous resources to working through this, to ensuring that we’re doing the right thing for all stakeholders. The way it’s kinda working, is the dean is supposed to support faculty and staff in doing their mission. I will continue to do that. We don’t have the legal expertise in-house at the Fox School of Business. Temple will handle this at the president and provost level –– the legal and the regulatory stuff. I will be involved in it, because I have to be, but most of my effort is going to be devoted toward Fox and altering the culture a little bit and refocusing it back on the students.

GM: Former dean Moshe Porat was at the university for a long time before this, and we recognize at The Temple News how much the school has grown under his leadership. Is there anything from his tenure that you plan to continue?

RA: The one thing I want to say about this is dichotomous in one sense, is Moshe did a lot of really good stuff for the Fox School, STHM and Temple University. We shouldn’t overlook that. I would like to keep many of the things he put here. We have a really nice entrepreneurial spirit, the school was doing well, our enrollments, our students were doing better. So we’re going to get through this, we’re going to keep the good and weed out the bad.

GM: Fox’s centennial celebration was set to begin this year, correct?

RA: It actually starts this fall.

GM: How is it going to be for you to step into this role and to host this celebration at such a time of controversy?

RA: It’s tricky. Let me say this, we had a problem here. I don’t think that all of Temple’s stakeholders should be punished for it. The president and I have spoken about this. We’re going to try as much as possible to continue business as normal. We’d like to do some celebrations around the centennial. They may be a bit more muted, I won’t argue that, but we want to do business as much as normal.

GM: Otherwise, the school is also under physical construction as you expand into 1810 Liacouras Walk. What’s the status of that? Is that all still continuing?

RA: As I look out my window right now, tomorrow morning they start putting the glass on the skywalk. I just finished a walk through the building, our hope is that people start moving in in August. That’s the goal, we’ll start moving people in in August. So nothing has changed there.

GM: You talked about how you specifically study governance and internal control systems. Can you tell me how that will play into you as the interim dean?

RA: As I go through here, I’ve already started setting up internal control systems. The idea that decision making has to be reviewed. There has to be checks and balances so this type of thing can’t happen again. We need to be more transparent. We need real rules and systems in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

GM: Do you have any specific examples you have already changed?

RA: I can give you one. I’ve separated some departments in the school where there was a misalignment of incentives. Not academic departments, administrative departments. The academic departments here are so strong, this is more administrative.

GM: Anything else you’d like to add?

RA: Again, I think there’s probably the one thing that it’s just kinda repeating myself. I want to apologize to all of Temple’s stakeholders for this happening. This shouldn’t have happened. I also want all our stakeholders to know that we own this problem and that we will fix it. We will come through this stronger than when we went into it. This is hard, but we’re strong. We will get through it.

UPDATE: The headline of this story has been updated for clarity.

1 Comment

  1. The Fox School is basically a good outfit, but there are other things going on in Higher Ed in general, and at Temple University in particular. Higher Education in America is unstable. How does Dean Anderson intend to insulate the Fox School from the 100 megaton shit-and-shrapnel bomb detonations that are in the process of occurring in academia as he speaks?

    [I have recently pondered on this issue elsewhere: ].

    — Kenneth H. Ryesky, Esq.
    Temple BBA 1977, JD 1976

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