Temple business school dean apologizes for scandal, aims to rejoin rankings in 6-8 months

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Temple’s interim dean of the Fox School of Business, Ronald Anderson

Temple University’s interim business school dean apologized for this year’s rankings scandal and said the school is aiming for a “thorough scrubbing” of its human resource and data oversight in hopes of rejoining outside rankings in the next six to eight months.

Following the shocking rankings scandal, dean Ronald C. Anderson said Temple’s business school is juggling a twofold mission: to de-emphasize the importance of rankings in its own culture, and at the same time, to clean up the internal process by which the school compiles data for the highly competitive outside rankings, which are collected by outlets such as U.S. News and World Report, the Financial Times, and the Economist.

“Are rankings important? Yes. Oftentimes students make decisions based on rankings. In some point in the next six to eight months, I hope we have our processes in place to get back into the rankings,” Anderson said.

But he stressed that the “rankings will be an outcome of our education, rather than an input. One thing we see in the business-school environment, it’s incredibly competitive. Everyone’s trying to get the edge. But what’s more important to students is outcomes. Are they getting good jobs? Are they getting into good grad schools? At Temple, they are. The rankings, as a consequence, should be a reflection of that,” he said.

Internally, Temple is restructuring various departments to ensure the rankings scandal “can’t happen again. Anyplace there may have been incentive conflicts, we’ve separated those. The restructuring is also getting better delineation of duties. We’re bringing in new human resource managers, new finance people, and better oversight. Just as important, we’re setting up internal control systems to ensure multiple levels of oversight and review for any issues like this,” he added.

The interim dean, who is expected to stay in the position for one to two years, met with Temple faculty last week to reiterate that “we went off track administratively. Our programs are still incredible values, we have very high-quality faculty.”

The reaccreditation process is still expected to be completed by January 2019, he said.

Anderson replaces Moshe Porat, who was forced out after a university investigation found the school knowingly submitted false rankings data about its online MBA program to U.S. News. Porat had led the school since 1996.

Temple’s Fox School of Business is celebrating its centennial this year, enrolls more than 9,000 students and employs more than 225 full-time faculty across nine departments.

Temple self-reported its data errors, and U.S. News earlier this year stripped the school of the No. 1 ranking for its online MBA program. Jones Day law firm, subsequently hired by the university, found that over multiple years, Fox reported inaccurate data concerning the number of entrants who provided GMAT scores, the mean undergraduate GPA of entrants, the offers of admission, and student debt.

“During the period Jones Day was doing the review we … had a long, quiet period. The faculty were a bit anxious. We spent a lot of time talking about the changes we need to make culturally and in governance,” Anderson said. Apart from Jones Day, Temple is negotiating to bring in other outside consultants as part of its overall business-school review.

“We’re continuing to conduct reviews. We will be bringing in some more outside firms to review data and data processes. We’ll also be relying on Temple internal audit. We’re going to do a thorough scrubbing of the data,” Anderson said.

He declined to say which outside consultants would be retained, saying “we’re still in negotiations.”

As for students’ reaction, he said, “I’ve learned a lot. The students in our existing masters programs, the ones where we misreported data, are a bit angry at us. We knowingly misreported, so we own this problem now. We tell them, we’ll fix it. They feel they were misled somewhat.”

Are students sticking by Temple? Yes, he said, but many remain angry. Anderson declined to comment on pending litigation, in particular a lawsuit filed by some current and former MBA students.

“I’ve been really emphasizing this is not an academic-program problem, but an administrative problem. We went off track administratively. Our programs are still incredible values, we have very high-quality faculty.”

His message: “The biggest thing we want to get out there is we’re being incredibly proactive in ensuring this doesn’t happen again.”

Under the prior dean, business-school faculty complained that they were forced to do fund-raising for the school in addition to teaching.

Asked whether that would change under his leadership, Anderson said, “I see fund-raising as more of a dean’s-office position. As a department chair of finance, I engaged in fund-raising, but it’s not a faculty responsibility. First and foremost, they should be creating and disseminating knowledge.”

Anderson said the one message he wanted to get out to the public was the following: “To our students and our stakeholders, I want to sincerely apologize. It shouldn’t have happened at Fox, and we own this problem. I want them to know my colleagues and I apologize for what happened.”