On Friday March 11, 2022, a business school dean for the first time in history was sentenced to US federal prison.
Moshe Porat, the former dean of Fox Business School at Temple University, received a 14-month sentence for submitting false data to a major media rankings publication that led to Fox topping a list of Online MBA programs in U.S. News and World Report for four consecutive years.
Moreover, Moshe not only knew exactly what he was doing, but reportedly coerced, manipulated, and threatened some of his subordinates to achieve his shrewd, calculated objective.
This narrative of a spectacular rise and sudden downfall, coupled with themes of greed and power, sounds like a manuscript you would see on the desk of a film director in Hollywood.
But it’s real life, with important lessons for candidates applying to business school.
Why’s the MBA rankings scandal important?
Applying to business school is an emotional experience, from the satisfaction of submitting a stellar application after endless weeks of editing essays to the escalating anxiety of waiting for an admissions decision.
And that doesn’t include all the second guessing of whether you applied to the ‘right’ schools. Did you aim higher than you should have? Did you miss out on the perfect program? Add the opinions of friends and family to the mix and you start to feel like you’re spinning in your tracks like the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes.
That’s why media rankings have been a steady anchor in a sea of uncertainty. Sure, each publication has a different methodology, but they were always a source of trust and truth.
If U.S. News and World Report says that X school is ranked first in the country, it must be, right? After all, these are respected magazines that earned a place of honor on crowded living room coffee tables.
If world-famous business leaders like Sheryl Sandberg and Tim Cook have graced the covers of Bloomberg Businessweek, then I should probably feel confident about the integrity of the rankings inside.
What does this mean for the value of MBA rankings?
Does this mean that you can’t trust rankings going forward?
This was an extreme case of a dysfunctional dean who, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, was a ‘rankings-obsessed micromanager and a bully of a boss, pressuring his staff to do whatever it took to ensure the school reached those heights and stayed there.’
And I’m certain the punishment will serve as a deterrent for any other school that is tempted to falsify admissions data, such as the percentage of students who took a standardized test in this case.
But it should make you aware of the risk factors of seeking advice when making a big (and expensive) decision that impacts your future.
You still want to conduct third-party research and ask people for their opinions—you don’t have to make a big decision on your own. But remember that human beings can be driven by motivations that often have nothing to do with you.
In this instance, it was a dean who was driven by dominance. It could be a parent who didn’t go to a super prestigious university themselves, so insists that you apply to Stanford Graduate School of Business when you know you’d be happier at the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School. Realize that we have all have filters in our recommendations based on our own needs and desires.
I’ve been in this space a (really) long time and have seen how status is in the eye of the beholder. One ‘crap’ school (yes, I’ve heard those words spoken) for one candidate is another candidate’s ‘dream’ school.
Think about what matters to you: how much value you place on various aspects of the program from culture, teaching methodology, location and yes, perception within your inner circle and the world at large.
Do the research, but rely on your gut reaction.
Barbara Coward (pictured above) is an MBA admissions consultant and expert. All opinions stated in this article are of the author and not of BusinessBecause.
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