Temple University blows the whistle on its own book-cookers

My personal connection to Temple University in Philadelphia runs long and deep.   I graduated from Temple's School of Business more than two decades before real estate developer Richard J. Fox tendered the big check that gave the School his name, and I subsequently graduated from Temple's School of Law before Jim Beasley wrote a check of his own.  Even before my student days, my mother was taking courses at Temple, and her brother did his undergrad degree there; other relatives attended Temple as well.  As an alumnus, I have had occasion to speak at a few student recruitment "dog and pony shows."

Temple's Fox School of Business has drawn some glacial interest of late.  On 9 July 2018, Temple University President Richard M. Englert announced the results of a review by international law firm Jones Day, a review commissioned by Temple University regarding irregularities in the data submitted to U.S. News & World Report for its ranking process:

That review is now complete, and it is my duty to report that the Fox School, under the leadership of Dean Moshe Porat, knowingly provided false information to at least one rankings organization about the Online MBA. In addition to the misreporting of the number of students who took the GMAT from 2015 to 2018, the average undergraduate GPA was overstated, and there were inaccuracies in the number of offers of admission as well as in the degree of student indebtedness.

It was the dean’s initiative to disband a longstanding committee charged with ensuring the accuracy of rankings data. This absence of checks and balances, together with an undue focus on rankings, enabled such misreporting. While we are committed to determining the nature and extent of possible incorrect data reporting regarding other academic programs at Fox, one thing is clear: This is contrary to the fundamental value of integrity that is at the heart of our academic mission. 

Today, Executive Vice President and Provost JoAnne A. Epps and I asked Dean Porat to step down effective immediately as dean. An interim dean will be identified, and we will begin a national search for a permanent dean as soon as possible.

The following observations and imponderables are now proffered regarding issues that lie beyond the pale of blame assignment and of proposed safeguards against future abuses, such matters having been addressed most seriously in Temple's damage control measures:

1.  Jones Day's Recommendation # 3 was to

Efficiently and effectively determine nature and extent of any other misreporting by Fox; communicate any such misreporting as appropriate.

What of other instrumentalities of Temple?  Where else might Temple be deficient?  Even back in my day, there was a palpable rivalry amongst the various units in that great bureaucracy known as Temple University.  Are there similar pressures within other Temple schools to make showings in the rankings by USN&WR and/or other esteemed ranking entities?

2.  The Temple University administration acted transparently, candidly, and promptly when the Fox School's irregularities came to light.  What about other colleges and universities?  Are there schools out there that are still in cover-up mode?

3.  As noted of late by various AT pundits and others, higher education in America is currently in a precarious financial and operational posture.  The mere fact that Temple University even experienced such questionable behavior exposes the susceptibility of all American colleges and universities to perversion of their basic missions.

4.  By confronting the problem head-on and not trying to sweep it under the rug, Temple University has better postured itself to emerge in some form from the coming burst of the higher education bubble as a viable educational entity.  Notwithstanding some deep personal misgivings regarding some of the occurrences at Temple University, I do hope to see Temple rise strong from the ashes.

Kenneth H. Ryesky, a freelance writer currently based in Israel, received his undergraduate and law degrees from Temple University, and has taught business law and taxation at Queens College CUNY.

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