University of Missouri-Kansas City Chancellor Leo Morton’s public apology Monday for the submission of trumped-up ratings data in the Henry W. Bloch School of Management’s entrepreneurship program was welcome but belated.
Emails obtained by the Star show that some faculty in the Bloch School in 2014 were questioning rankings in a professional journal even as the university administration was using them as a recruiting tool.
An email last August from Jeff Hornsby, managing director of the Bloch School’s Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, suggests that administrators outside the Bloch School were made aware of the doubts.
“As I have stated many times to the PR (public relations) team and in meetings, we need to be careful about defending these outcomes,” Hornsby said. “Our continued defense continues to deteriorate our credibility and legitimacy.”
That assertion turned out to be prophetic. In a related but separate rankings problem, an audit turned up evidence of inflated data provided to the Princeton Review, which recently removed UMKC from its top 25 list of entrepreneurship programs.
On KCUR radio’s “Up to Date” program Monday, Morton apologized to students, faculty, alumni and supporters.
“This is a serious issue to me because it is not what we are about,” he said.
Referring to pressure within the entrepreneurship program to inflate the data, Morton said, “It’s not necessary. These are great programs.”
Indeed, it ought to be the case in academia that high quality programs stand on their own without relying on the gimmickry that characterizes college rankings. Unfortunately, schools and prospective students place a great deal of emphasis on the various lists.
UMKC is by no means the first school to get caught gaming the rankings. But the administration’s refusal to candidly acknowledge the falsehoods until the Princeton Review took action suggests that its priorities were askew.
What happened in the entrepreneurship program shouldn’t define UMKC, or even the entire Bloch School. Faculty, staff and students in the medical programs, Conservatory of Music and elsewhere work hard each day to strive for excellence without cheating.
With false boasting about rankings, the entrepreneurship program told students they’d have access to a premiere education with some of the best scholars in the field. The university is honor-bound to live up to those pledges, but the rankings scandal will make the job much harder.