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UMKC chancellor apologizes for use of flawed data in pursuit of rankings

“This is very serious to me because this is not what we are about, and I want everyone to know that we are addressing it in a very serious way,” Leo Morton, the chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said Monday on KCUR-FM’s program “Up to Date.” Last week the university was stripped of its four top-25 Princeton Review rankings for falsifying data.
“This is very serious to me because this is not what we are about, and I want everyone to know that we are addressing it in a very serious way,” Leo Morton, the chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said Monday on KCUR-FM’s program “Up to Date.” Last week the university was stripped of its four top-25 Princeton Review rankings for falsifying data. The Kansas City Star

A week after the University of Missouri-Kansas City was stripped of its four top-25 Princeton Review rankings for falsifying data, Chancellor Leo Morton apologized for the first time to students, staff, alumni and the city.

“This is very serious to me because this is not what we are about, and I want everyone to know that we are addressing it in a very serious way,” Morton said Monday on KCUR-FM’s program “Up to Date.” He made the same statement later in a letter to the UMKC campus.

Morton previously had accepted responsibility, a UMKC spokesman said, but “felt it was important to apologize today before sharing the university’s next steps forward to ensure this issue never happens again.”

Steve Kraske, the host of “Up to Date,” asked Morton to talk about the Henry W. Bloch School of Management losing its 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 Princeton Review rankings.

The Princeton Review stripped UMKC from the lists of the best college and business school entrepreneurial programs after an audit conducted by the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers confirmed that university officials had submitted false data related to the number of student clubs and mentorship programs and some enrollment information.

The audit was requested by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon after a Kansas City Star article last summer described a pattern of exaggerations, misstatements and cherry-picked data by Bloch School officials in their pursuit of top rankings for the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Kraske, who also is a political columnist for The Star, asked Morton to address other questions raised about the validity of a separate business school ranking that was published in the Journal of Product Innovation Management, or JPIM. A 2012 article, submitted by two Chinese scholars who at the time were visiting UMKC, named the university No. 1 in the world for research in the field of innovation management.

Morton said on the radio that when he first heard that the JPIM study had ranked UMKC ahead of elite schools such as Harvard, Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his alma mater, he questioned it.

But he said he was assured the ranking dealt with “a very narrow” research area. And he said that an analysis by a retired business professor who reviewed the PricewaterhouseCoopers audit “validated” the ranking study.

Morton said the false data submissions to the Princeton Review could be traced to one administrator who he said was “pushing the envelope. … You just cannot predict the actions of a single individual.”

The PwC audit report revealed that UMKC administrator John Norton submitted bad data because he felt pressured by his boss Michael Song, who headed the Regnier Institute at the time.

Morton said he wanted “to assure everyone that we are doing everything humanly possible to ensure that this issue never happens again.”

He said the Bloch School and the Regnier Institute have new leaders. “Any problems that were identified occurred before their stewardship and they are working to strengthen the academic integrity of the program,” he said.

Morton said he endorsed the plan by David Donnelly, dean of the Bloch School, to create a new faculty review committee to oversee all future ranking applications for the business school.

“We have to get broader input into the process, and we will,” Morton said.

To reach Mará Rose Williams, call 816-234-4419 or send email to mdwilliams@kcstar.com.

To reach Mike Hendricks, call 816-234-4738 or send email to mhendricks@kcstar.com.

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