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Ousted Temple Fox Business School dean fights back, plans $25 million lawsuit

Moshe Porat, 72, alleges the university has unfairly blamed him for a rankings scandal that rocked the school last summer and ruined his reputation and legacy.

Former dean of the Fox School of Business and Management Moshe Porat.
Former dean of the Fox School of Business and Management Moshe Porat.Read moreApril Saul (custom credit) / File Photograph

When Temple University asked for his resignation, Moshe Porat refused to give it. Now, the ousted business school dean is fighting back.

Porat, 72, alleges that the university has unfairly blamed him for a rankings scandal that rocked the Fox School of Business last summer, and ruined his reputation and legacy.

He claims that for years, he sent written directives to other Fox staff, warning them to make sure all the data for the rankings were honest and accurate — and was assured that they were — and that, in the end, Temple made him a scapegoat to protect its own image.

He asserts that he did not know about or authorize the false reporting of data or falsify any data provided to U.S. News & World Report and other rankings organizations. Nor, he maintained, did he dismantle a committee charged with oversight of the data, as the school contended.

“Out of loyalty to the university, I have been publicly silent for 10 long months,” Porat said in a nearly 1,400 word statement provided to The Inquirer. “That ends today.”

Porat plans to file a $25 million defamation suit against the university and its president, Richard M. Englert, on Thursday, said Porat’s Virginia-based lawyer, Thomas A. Clare. If the suit proceeds, it could begin to lay bare more details on how the misreporting occurred and those responsible.

Temple said in a statement that it stands by its decision to remove Porat, which was bolstered by the findings of a university-commissioned investigation by an independent law firm.

“We said then that integrity is and must be at the heart of Temple’s educational mission,” the school said. “The public must be able to trust what we say and do, and Temple must be counted upon to take the steps necessary to guarantee that trust. … We absolutely deny that Temple’s actions were in any way improper or unjustified, and we look forward to rigorously defending our actions in court.”

The university removed the longtime dean in July after an investigation by the Jones Day law firm blamed him for falsified data about the school’s online MBA program, resulting in inflated national rankings. Before the misrepresentations were discovered, the Fox program had topped the U.S. News list for four straight years.

The disclosure resulted in multiple national and state investigations, more than $5 million in payments to students who claimed they were hoodwinked, and further revelations that other business school programs also had supplied false data to school-ranking organizations. Temple took steps to tighten procedures for reporting rankings data throughout the university, including the hiring of an external auditor.

A review of the matter by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office is ongoing.

“We have received thousands of pages of material from Temple, and our attorneys are examining them, page by page,” said spokesperson Joe Grace.

In the suit, the content of which was shared with The Inquirer, Porat will assert that for years he sent emails to employees warning against misrepresentations in rankings data.

“I was repeatedly assured that the data submissions were unassailable,” he wrote.

It also will contend that Temple failed to levy blame or at least question the role that its own Institutional Research and Assessment office had in the scandal. The office was responsible for auditing and validating ranking data submitted to outside organizations, the dean said.

Instead, the university in its July statement announcing the false data reporting and again in a later publication about the new business dean laid the blame on Porat, he and his lawyer allege.

“I have been made a scapegoat,” Porat wrote.

The university, he alleges, did so “for its expediency in public relations — and to deflect attention from the university’s own role in all this.”

Since the scandal broke, Porat had been quietly trying to negotiate a settlement with the university.

An Israeli immigrant, Porat came to Temple in 1976 as a graduate student, joined the faculty in 1981, and ultimately became chair of the business school, a position he held for 22 years. During his tenure, he raised more than $100 million for the school, and it experienced a dramatic enrollment increase. He remains a tenured member of the faculty but has not taught a class since he was removed from the dean post.

He was the first to report the data problem to both U.S. News and Temple, his lawyer said. He did so after someone within the school brought an online article to his attention that raised questions about the accuracy of the data.

U.S. News subsequently dropped Temple’s online MBA program from its rankings. The online MBA degree program, which charges roughly $60,000 a student, had enrolled about 300 students and generated about $18 million in revenue for Temple.

With the Jones Day report in hand, on July 9, Englert and Temple provost JoAnne A. Epps presented Porat with two letters and a choice: Resign or be fired. The dean said he refused to resign and was removed.

Porat disputed the university’s assertion that he had an “undue focus on rankings,” saying it certainly no more so than others', and added that it was the university — not the Fox School — that held a “rankings retreat” in 2016.

He said Temple’s actions have damaged his health and effectively ended his career.

Students deserved better than they got, Porat said.

“They made decisions to attend our university based in part on ranking data they thought to be accurate,” he wrote. “Data that should have been accurate."

Students, he wrote, “deserve a university that audits and reports accurate data. Our students are the real victims here. They deserved the truth, and the university let them down."

If the suit is successful, Porat said, he intends to give a portion of the money to Fox’s Center for Student Professional Development, which he envisioned and established.

The Fox School of Business has maintained a relatively low profile since the scandal, with last month’s Fox 100 centennial a quiet affair, according to one trustee who attended but asked not to be named.

“All the old guard were there,” including longtime Temple supporters who predated Porat’s appointment as dean of the business school, the former trustee said. “But they had trouble attracting a big crowd.”