Rutgers boosted MBA rankings with ‘sham’ jobs, lawsuit says

A human resources manager has accused Rutgers in a whistleblower lawsuit of boosting its rankings using sham internal jobs for MBA graduates.

A human resources manager has accused Rutgers in a whistleblower lawsuit of boosting its rankings using sham internal jobs for MBA graduates.

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The “No. 1 Public Business School in the Northeast” may have padded its job-placement numbers for recent graduates using “sham” temporary positions funded by the university’s endowment, according to a new whistleblower lawsuit filed in New Jersey state court.

The complaint, which accuses Rutgers University of using those numbers to inflate its MBA rankings, was filed by the human resources manager at Rutgers Business School, Deidre White, who still works for the university.

“Instead of telling the truth to prospective and current students, (Rutgers Business School) continues to make the claim that virtually all of its graduates are gainfully employed,” the lawsuit states. “As a result, students chose to attend Rutgers based on these false representations and manipulated MBA ranking statistics.”

Matthew A. Luber of the law firm McOmber McOmber & Luber is representing White.

A university spokesperson declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit in a statement to McClatchy News but said Rutgers takes reporting requirements seriously.

“We will say without equivocation, however, that we take seriously our obligation to accurately report data and other information to ranking and reporting agencies,” the university said. “The Rutgers Business School strictly follows the MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance guidelines in submitting MBA statistics and similarly follows the appropriate guidelines in submitting undergraduate statistics.”

According to the complaint, Rutgers created “sham” positions within the university for unemployed graduates but outsourced the jobs to a temp-agency to skirt reporting restrictions that bar colleges from counting internal hires in their employment data.

“This was a blatant effort to give the impression of a higher overall full-time employability rating with third-parties and to deceptively bolster Defendant Rutgers’ ‘ranking’ with crucial media outlets, such as US News & World Report,” White’s lawyer said in the lawsuit.

White was hired in 2015 and worked for university human resources before she was transferred to the business school in Newark, New Jersey, where she became the HR manager, her lawyer said.

University data shows about 10,000 students attend the business school, including around 800 part-time and 65 full-time students in the MBA graduate program.

The job placement rate for full-time MBA students is listed as 100% within six months after graduation on the business school’s website.

But according to White’s lawsuit, some of those jobs have been “token permanent positions directly with the university.”

Rutgers hired the MBA students through a third-party temp-agency using more than $400,000 from the university endowment, her lawyer said. A chart from 2018 included in the lawsuit shows seven of the students who were hired were given short-term contracts lasting three to seven months at an hourly rate of $45.

White’s lawyer said department officials made a point of passing around MBA students’ resumes and arranging offer acceptances within 90 days of graduation so that they could be recorded in Rutgers’ employment statistics.

“The scope of assignment was to work directly for Defendant RBS itself in a sham position well-below the criteria for an MBA student,” the complaint states.

Rutgers’ MBA rankings shot through the roof the first year they allegedly implemented the scheme, according to the lawsuit.

In 2018, the Financial Times ranked its business school No. 24 in the US and No. 1 in public business schools in the Northeast, White’s lawyer said. By 2020, US News & World Report ranked Rutgers the No. 1 Public MBA program in the Tri-State area, and last year Fortune named it the No. 1 Public Business School in the Northeast.

White said she filed a complaint with the dean of Rutgers Business School on March 21 asking her to “take steps to rectify the fraud and disclose the truth.”

A week later, her lawyer said, Rutgers issued a letter stating the university had investigated and could not substantiate White’s claims.

White also accused Rutgers of discriminating against her based on a medical condition, retaliating against her filing complaints related to her disability and the university’s allegedly illegal conduct, and trying to force her resignation or termination.

The lawsuit makes claims for retaliation, disability discrimination and failure to accommodate. White is seeking back pay, damages, reinstatement of benefits and attorneys’ fees, among other relief.

Hayley Fowler is a reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking and real-time news across North and South Carolina. She has a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously worked as a legal reporter in New York City before joining the Observer in 2019.

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