Following the ousting of Fox School of Business Dean Moshe Porat, who allegedly oversaw years of misreporting student data to U.S. News & World Report, several business students are worried about how this could affect the school’s reputation, while others disagree.
Last week, President Richard Englert and Provost JoAnne Epps asked Porat to step down after a report by international law firm Jones Day found student data had been falsified for years to achieve the school’s high ranking. Its online MBA program was ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report for four consecutive years based off of inaccurate data, the report found.
Then, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office launched an investigation into the university and the business school last Friday.
“That was a big source of pride for Fox students, we had the No. 1 Online MBA,” said Michael Fitzpatrick, a senior economics major. “You see the ads everywhere all along the Schuylkill and now that it’s fake, it’s embarrassing.”
Fitzpatrick, who expects to graduate in December, isn’t worried about the school’s actions affecting his job search.
“I think … people familiar with Fox students will know that it’s still a good school regardless of whether it fudged the numbers to make it look better,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think it’s better to judge a school based on its previous alumni than it is on the ranking.”
“I think that if I was an Online MBA student I would be very mad,” he said. “I think that those who are angry have every right to be angry.”
Jones Day launched its investigation into the misreporting allegations in January. Later, Kyle Smith, a graduate student in the Online MBA program, filed a lawsuit against the university that claimed the scandal diminishes the value of his degree. He and more than 30 other students in the program are suing Fox and Temple, the Inquirer reported.
The group is asking the court to treat the case as a class action lawsuit, wrote Jason Brown, an attorney at JTB Law Group in New Jersey who is representing the students, in an email to The Temple News.
“This [rankings situation] will greatly impact the students as they did not receive the benefit of the bargain for the degree they thought were going to obtain,” Brown wrote, adding that the school should compensate its students “for this blatant fraud.” The students were not available for interviews, Brown wrote.
The U.S. News & World Report requested that Temple verify all of its submissions to the rankings publication in the wake of the report’s findings. Temple will follow new data submission processes to maintain “data integrity,” Epps wrote in an email to the Temple community last week.
All deans and heads of university offices will be required to submit a detailed report on its data collection, verification and submission process, according to Epps’ email.
The university will add two new staff members to help with “appropriate data processes and practices” and will implement new systems and trainings for all employees. For at least three years, Temple will hire an external auditor to review Fox’s rankings submissions and those of other schools, colleges and university offices, according to Epps’ email.
Ethan Greenstein, a 2018 marketing alumnus, said the university is “taking the initiative” to fix the problem and stop it from happening elsewhere at Temple.
“It’s kind of unfortunate that it took until this point for them to implement a new system for this,” Greenstein said.
He secured a job in November, but a few of his friends who graduated from Fox this summer expressed concern about the reputation of the school.
“It’s not so much of a concern for undergraduate degrees, but it is something that people are like, ‘Oh, just because of my association with this, the fact that I just graduated, are jobs going to be turning me down? Are they going to look down on this?’” Greenstein said.
Sam Hodge, a legal studies professor at Fox who has been a faculty member for 43 years, wrote in an email to The Temple News that he understands the rankings issue is a controversy, but recent events have overshadowed the “outstanding accomplishments by our school’s faculty, staff and students.”
“[I] have witnessed the business school grow and mature dramatically over the last two decades under Dr. Porat’s leadership,” Hodge, who taught an Online MBA course five years ago, wrote. “It has developed into a place that has supported its thousands of students in and out of the classroom, with high-caliber resources and an emphasis on professional development and career placement services.”
Hodge said he is fully in favor of the new data submission processes outlined in Epps’ email.
“The more checks and balances that are in place helps ensure that errors will not be replicated,” Hodge added.