Moshe Porat Op-Ed

In My Own Words

By Dr. Moshe Porat

Dr. Moshe Porat
Dr. Moshe Porat

My proud association with Temple University goes all the way back to 1976. As an immigrant from Israel, I came to America to be a graduate student at Temple. Not long after, I became a U.S. citizen and settled my family in Philadelphia. I can recall my great pride when I joined Temple’s faculty, later earning tenure and then an endowed chair. Ultimately, I rose to Dean of the Fox School of Business, a position I was honored to hold for 22 years. I dedicated my entire career to the Fox School and Temple University. Temple was my life, and the Fox School my passion. I did the very best I could for all constituents, but especially for the students.

It is those students – my Fox students – particularly our M.B.A. students at the Fox School, who deserved better. They made decisions to attend our University, based in part on rankings data they thought to be accurate. Data that should have been accurate. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the impact these failings have had on our students. I can only imagine how my students have felt knowing they made critical life decisions based, in part, on erroneous data the University did not validate when required to do so by its own rules. Temple’s students deserve better than this. They 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.

But I also deserve to have the truth told about what happened, and the University has let me down, too. Out of loyalty to the University, I have been publicly silent for 10 long months. That ends today.

In July 2018, and again in October 2018, Temple falsely told the world that I “knowingly provided false information” and was “removed” for “falsifying data” to rankings organizations like U.S. News & World Report. The administration at Temple took away the job I loved, damaged my health, and destroyed my reputation and the legacy of my life’s work I spent decades building. They 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. I have been made a scapegoat.

Therefore, today, I am suing Temple University and President Richard Englert for defamation.

I had hoped this day would never come, and it genuinely pains me to take this step. I love Temple and the Fox School, and I believe deeply in their mission. Until now, I resisted legal action and have tried to negotiate in good faith and reach an honorable resolution with the University that I worked so hard for most of my life. But Temple has refused to do the right thing and set the record straight, leaving me no other choice.

* * *

It is important to set the record straight as what the University presented as fact is, in reality, fiction. Contrary to the University’s statements, there was never a direction from me – or to my knowledge from anyone in the leadership of the Fox School – to manipulate rankings data or to dismantle oversight. Indeed, the opposite is true. Over the years, I gave numerous written directives imploring Fox staffers to ensure that all of the rankings data submissions were accurate and honest. In response, I was repeatedly assured that the data submissions were unassailable.

The University disregarded the actual directions I gave – and hid other information from the public – in order to create its false narrative. The evidence that supports this conclusion, as well as significant other information that the University disregarded in its rush to scapegoat me and my senior staff, is detailed in my court-filed complaint.

Let me tell you what other facts Temple administrators hid from the public as a result of their “independent” investigation.

In January 2018, when Fox employees first brought to my attention that rankings data were possibly incorrect, I immediately made the decision to alert U.S. News and Temple officials.

Second, with the approval of Temple’s Provost, I temporarily removed the Fox School of Business from other rankings and spent considerable time to fully restructure the oversight process for rankings.

Third, since 2014, University leaders have required all Temple schools, including the Fox School of Business, to submit all proposed rankings data to a University-wide office, reporting to the Provost, known as Temple’s Institutional Research and Assessment office (IRA). The IRA was supposed to audit and validate the rankings data submitted by all Temple schools and had the ultimate responsibility for verifying data accuracy. None of this was made public when I was removed as Dean last year. Why did the University and IRA not uncover the inaccuracies?

Fourth, Temple administrators absolutely knew that I did not knowingly provide false information to rankings agencies or to the University, nor did I falsify any data. I have come to learn that they recklessly disregarded internal emails and interviews in their possession directly contradicting their press releases and the false conclusions the University wanted the public to reach about me.

In the University’s defamatory press release, President Richard Englert accused me of having an “undue focus on rankings.” Was the Fox School focused on our rankings? Certainly, but no more so than others at Temple or other universities across the nation. In fact, Temple leadership encouraged us at Fox, as well as all the Temple schools, to emphasize rankings and they even led a university-wide retreat dedicated to that effort in 2016.

I accept that leaders must take responsibility for the actions of others that occurred on their watch. But it is reckless and irresponsible for the University administration to promote a demonstrably false narrative that I personally engaged in intentional misconduct, or some breach of integrity or ethics on my part, when the facts and documents show otherwise.

* * *

During my 22-year tenure as dean, the Fox School doubled its enrollment while dramatically raising the quality of the student body and the kinds of jobs they receive upon graduation. We recruited outstanding faculty and dramatically raised research and tenure standards. At the same time, I worked hard with my team to raise resources through fundraising and through expansion into numerous new domestic and global programs. All told, we raised more than $100 million for the school, dramatically increasing the endowment and built three state of the art facilities for the students.

One of my proudest moments was when our esteemed former leader, the late President Peter Liacouras, reached out with a personal note as we prepared to dedicate Alter Hall in April 2009. “There are preciously few persons who match your spirit, energy, dedication, and resourcefulness,” President Liacouras wrote. “You rediscovered, cut, polished and have presented us with a diamond in the Fox School of Business. I am proud of you now and in the future.” Those were indeed better days.

* * *

Since my ouster last July, my life has been in considerable turmoil. Not only was I defamed in the University’s press release at the time I was removed as Dean, the University continued to make defamatory statements in paid public advertisements. The University also breached an employment contract I have had since 2007. All of this combined has resulted in material financial harm to me and my family. It has caused me considerable emotional distress, negative health-related consequences, and lasting reputational harm.

At my age, I have learned, experienced, and seen my share of life and I have been blessed with so much. I have stayed at the Fox School for nearly 43 years because I love Fox and Temple. I love the students and I love the people I went to work with every day. I am so proud of what we have accomplished at Fox together, yet also devastated at the thought that students were let down because the University did not give them accurate information. I am humbled by all the expressions of support from so many faculty, staff, alumni, and, yes, students, during this difficult period. I am grateful and I deeply appreciate it. Their encouragement has given me the strength to persevere, to fight for transparency and to restore my reputation. I am confident that the truth will prevail.

Moshe Porat, Ph.D., is the former dean of the Fox School of Business, tenured faculty member and Laura H. Carnell Professor at Temple University.