The University of Missouri Board of Curators said Friday it will commission an independent review of the issues raised in a Kansas City Star article about how top rankings were attained at the University of Missouri-Kansas City business school.
The curators’ decision was made during a closed meeting Friday afternoon. Following the meeting, the curators released a statement saying the PricewaterhouseCoopers auditing firm will conduct the review.
Results of the independent inquiry “will be reviewed by an appropriate academic expert not affiliated with the University of Missouri System or any of its campuses,” according to the curators’ statement.
In an internal memo obtained by The Star, Leo Morton, the UMKC chancellor, said the university can only be helped by a thorough and unbiased review.
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“As long as such an investigation is performed by people who both understand academic processes and have no stake in the outcome, we have no fear of what it may reveal,” Morton said.
In a statement, the university pledged cooperation with PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Gov. Jay Nixon had called this week for the curators to conduct an independent investigation into how top rankings were attained at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management in 2011 and subsequent years.
Nixon’s call came after a report in The Star on Sunday showing a trail of exaggerations and misstatements by the business school that raised questions among faculty and students about the validity of the rankings.
The governor sent a letter to Morton, current Bloch School dean David P. Donnelly and university system president Tim Wolfe saying the newspaper article raised “serious questions about the integrity of the scholarship and strategies that have been employed to raise the profile of the institution.”
In a statement Thursday, UMKC said it was confident in the validity of the rankings and took issue with The Star’s report, saying, “We have not violated the public trust.”
The Star’s story addressed the Bloch School’s desire to be included among the nation’s top-ranked business schools and how the school in 2011 received top rankings and the largest single gift in the university’s history — $32 million — from Henry Bloch to build a state-of-the-art facility for the school.
At question are two rankings highlighted by The Star.
One came in a 2011 Journal of Product Innovation Management study that placed UMKC’s Bloch School first in the world in innovation management research. That study was done by visiting Chinese scholars working on the UMKC campus.
The second were top 25 rankings that year and others in The Princeton Review for the business school’s Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. In that instance, The Star’s investigation found several questions about the university’s use of data it submitted.
UMKC maintains that the relationships with the authors of the JPIM study do not negate its findings and that it did not exaggerate or take shortcuts to gain the Princeton Review rankings.