After 10 months of silence, former Temple University Fox School of Business Dean Moshe Porat is challenging allegations that he knowingly submitted inaccurate data to U.S. News & World Report for its 2018 Best Online MBA Programs rankings.
Porat filed a defamation lawsuit on May 2 against the university and its president, Richard Englert, that seeks $25 million.
“The administration took away the job I loved, damaged my health, destroyed my reputation and the legacy of my life’s work I spent decades building,” Porat said at a May 2 press conference. “Temple leadership did this with a false narrative invented for its expediency in public relations — and to deflect attention from the university’s own role in all of this.”
Porat worked at Temple for 43 years, including 22 years as dean, and is still a tenured professor there, although he is not currently teaching. He is also seeking an award for economic damages, emotional distress and reputational harm.
Temple said it stands by its decision to seek Porat’s resignation based on the findings of an independent review of the Fox School issues that was conducted by the Jones Day law firm, according to a statement it released.
Temple officials said they were unable to comment further.
Porat’s suit is not about whether he should have been fired or whether false data was submitted to U.S. News & World Report, said Porat’s attorney, Tom Clare. The defamation claim is about restoring Porat’s reputation.
“We believe and will prove the university intentionally made false statements in reckless disregard for the truth,” Clare said.
Porat said Temple shifted the blame to Porat amid a massive public relations crisis by purposely omitting information from their communications.
For example, Porat claimed that when Fox employees first brought to his attention that rankings data were potentially incorrect, Porat himself made the decision to alert both U.S. News and university officials.
Porat also said that since 2014, university leaders have required Temple schools, including Fox, to submit all proposed rankings data to a university-wide office, reporting to the provost, known as Institutional Research and Assessment (IRA). The IRA was required to audit the data submitted by all Temple schools and had the ultimate responsibility of verifying the information.
The complaint cited two key public documents published by Temple — a press release and an advertorial — that Porat claims falsely accused him of knowingly providing incorrect information.
The July 9, 2018 press release identified in the complaint reads, “… 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,” and “It was the dean’s initiative to disband a longstanding committee charged with ensuring the accuracy of rankings data.”
Clare said this was a committee of professors in the Fox School focused primarily on marketing — and rankings were only part of it. It evolved over time and the rankings functions of the committee were consolidated in a full-time employee, while the oversight functions were shifted to designated individuals in the Fox School and the IRA office, he said.
“Contrary to the university’s statements, there was never a direction from me to manipulate rankings data or to dismantle oversight,” Porat said.
According to the complaint, Temple’s internal documents and emails reveal that Porat emphasized the need for data submissions to be accurate and was repeatedly assured that the submissions were not only accurate, but were being checked by the IRA office.
The Oct. 29, 2018 advertorial identified in the complaint, which was paid for and published by Temple in Business Because, a magazine for MBA-focused academics and professionals, reads, “Now, after a year that saw the removal of Fox’s previous dean for falsifying data to US News…,” as part of a Q&A with the new dean.
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