A new and unexpected villain has emerged in the sordid story of the UMKC business school individuals who fabricated and cheated in order to get the school acclaimed as one of the best in the country.
It’s none other than the man after whom the business school is named — Henry W. Bloch, co-founder of the tax-preparation giant H&R Block.
The school was named for Bloch, now 92 years old, after he gave UMKC $32 million to build it on the UMKC campus.
The lead story in today’s Kansas City Star says that Bloch “valued rankings as affirmation for the school that bore his name.”
The story quotes a 2011 email in which then-Bloch school dean Teng-Kee Tan pushed business school administrators to raise the school’s standing in the Princeton Review rankings to impress Bloch. Tan wrote:
“Henry Bloch gets very upset when our rankings go down. We must do everything we can to increase it when we can by all means necessary.”
In July, when The Star originally broke the story about the Bloch school having cheated to get inflated and undeserved rankings among the nation’s business schools, Mr. Bloch — through no fault of The Star — got a pass.
“No, I don’t think I would have,” he said.
That made him sound like his hands were clean. Little did we know, however, that his desire for high rankings — and wider recognition of the Bloch name, probably — played a major role in his benevolence.
The two biggest goats in the original Star story were Tan, the aforementioned former Bloch school dean, and professor Michael Song, who formerly headed the school’s innovation management research department.
In July, it wasn’t clear why Tan set the tone for cheating, but with the release of the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, it is. Tan’s guiding philosophy, it seems, was, “We’ve got to do right by Mr. Bloch.”
Song, among other things, edited and may have helped write a “scholarly” article for a publication that ended up rating the Bloch school No. 1 in the nation in innovation management. Just as outrageously, at the time the article was written, its two main authors were visiting scholars (unpaid), at the Bloch School. (They had worked with Song elsewhere previously.)
The rankings put the Bloch school above such competing programs as Harvard, Stanford and MIT.
For their initial story in July, Hendricks and Williams conducted an off-the-record interview (understandably) with a professor who said he and his colleagues were skeptical even as the study’s results were announced.
“We all knew that this was bullshit,” he said. “We knew that UMKC was not better than MIT and Stanford.”
Amazingly, Song remains on the Bloch school staff…Whatever it took, steps should have been taken months ago to get him fired, regardless of what kind of legal standing he’s got at the school.
This whole thing is very sordid and reprehensible. Here are the main points:
:: Tan created an unethical atmosphere by succumbing to the pressure of Henry Bloch’s presence and pressure.
:: Song was simply a crooked self-promoter.
:: Mr. Bloch should have given the money for the building and stayed out of the way. If the school had won big awards and rankings on its merits, great, if not, it still would have been a fine institution that Kansas Citians and Missourians could be proud of. But now it’s dug itself into a deep hole.
A good friend of mine and a top Kansas City civic leader, Anita Gorman, was very irritated when The Star published the first story in July. She faulted The Star, not the cheaters, contending, essentially, that The Star did a disservice to the community and UMKC by airing the Bloch school’s dirty laundry.
Of course, Anita was way off the mark, and I told her so, saying, “You cannot blame the messenger; the individuals were at fault.”
Once Anita has made up her mind, it’s hard to dissuade her, and I haven’t talked to her recently. I hope that today’s story changes her perspective. I’ll let you know what I hear.
Congratulations again to Mike Hendricks and Mara Rose Williams…A finer piece of investigative journalism would be hard to find. They have done Kansas City and, in the long run, UMKC, a big service by exposing a shocking and disturbing situation.
It’s time for UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton to fully acknowledge the wrongdoing and start the process of plucking UMKC and the Bloch school out of the mud and moving ahead with renewed integrity.