Stanford Faculty Predict Dean Saloner Will Be Gone Before Long

Vanity Fair weighs in with a lengthy article on a growing controversy at Stanford

Vanity Fair weighs in with a lengthy article on a growing controversy at Stanford

Some of the faculty at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business believe that beleaguered Dean Garth Saloner won’t survive the academic year in his job.

The revelation appears in a major Vanity Fair article on the dean, his affair with a GSB professor, and the litigation that has ensued from her estranged husband who had taught at the business school. 

The story, entitled “Inside Stanford Business School’s Spiraling Sex Scandal,” is to be published in the December issue of Vanity Fair. The article is sure to cause Stanford University, its business school, Provost John Etchemendy, and Deborah Gruenfeld, the professor having the affair with the dean, even greater embarrassment and reputation damage than the university and the officials have already suffered. It also threatens to undermine John Hennessy’s legacy as president of the university.

Among other things, the article raises questions over how honest Saloner was in describing his romantic relationship with Gruenfeld to Provost Etchemendy, and Gruenfeld is said to have admitted fudging the data on an important academic research project that, her husband contends, was her award-winning PhD dissertation.


Writes author David Margolick in Vanity Fair, “The money-raisers, one former administrator told me, are in ‘panic mode.’ ‘What a mess,’ one G.S.B. professor lamented. ‘You know the phrase ‘mutually assured destruction’?’ asked another. ‘This is what we got.’”

Stanford GSB Dean Garth Saloner and professor Deborah Gruenfeld - Daily Mail photo

Stanford GSB Dean Garth Saloner and professor Deborah Gruenfeld – Daily Mail photo

Some of Saloner’s faculty colleagues predict that, given the likely emergence of additional embarrassments, he won’t survive the academic year as dean, wrote Margolick. He quotes by name one of the school’s most well-known professors, Charles O’Reilly III, who teaches leadership and organizational behavior, being critical of the dean. “That training [on sexual harassment] is crystal-clear about our obligations,” says O’Reilly. “And if the dean doesn’t comply, what’s the signal to the rest of us?”

Margolick relates a story from Jim Phills – Gruenfeld’s husband who has filed a wrongful termination suit against Saloner and Stanford – purporting that two GSB professors, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton, bet a fancy dinner on whether Saloner would last a year in his post after the lawsuit was filed.

One GSB professor predicted to Vanity Fair that, among students, Saloner will become an object of ridicule, and that the castration he spoke of in one Internet chat with his lover—“Knife. Penis. Public Square”—will surely be reprised as a campus catchphrase. He also predicted that Saloner will be tapping into his extensive Silicon Valley ties to find himself a job there.


The phrase Saloner texted Gruenfeld, ostensibly referencing the erotic Japanese art film In the Realm of the Senses, was meant to suggest that is what should happen to Phills.

One Saloner supporter at the GSB told Margolick that he was worried for the dean, because Saloner had taken all his eggs from the academic basket and put them in administration – a realm that has now blown up in his face. “This is going to destroy him,” the man said. “I don’t quite know how he recovers from this.”

  • Classpresident

    It’s life, learn to deal with it and compete. All these top schools lower standards for their agendas. Being Asian and working hard don’t mean jack unless they think you bring the $$$$. Family name$ are very important at the gsb when I was there everyone chased the name$.

  • Classpresident

    Had O’Reilly as OB prof while there, great teacher and man. Many of the other teaching faculty were too. All the deans and associate deans were part of the ole boys. Good at sucking up to each other and the executives and money guys to get a gravy Board post or stock equity crumbs. Money and power chasing fools who set a poor example to the majority of the kids. Stanford is rich, that’s what matters. The noise from this will be forgotten soon and repeats with new blood.

  • guest

    Stanford finance focus is mostly tech-related banking, PE, VC so still will be greatly impacted by a tech downturn

  • Veritas

    If she “fudged” the data on her “award-winning” dissertation, she needs to be fired. Academic researchers are supposed to be in search of the truth, not deceiving others for the sake of their own personal gain and fame.

  • I’m amazed that Etchemendy, the ultimate puppeteer, has done his job so well that he can be perceived as “out of touch.” The man’s bureaucratic genius of the Heinrich Himmler caliber.

  • biz_kid

    Well…that’s a different thing….the mckinsey CEO you are referring to Rajat Gupta….had retired from the firm several years before that….so his involvement wasn’t directly related to Mckinsey……the difference here is that Dean Saloner and other parties were and are presently all at Stanford……

    Plus mckinsey had no involvement in the insider trading scandal….whereas Stanford administration and faculty are directly involved in this.

  • Short memories

    Nah, it won’t. Do you remember that CEO of McKinsey was convicted of insider trading a few years back? Me either.

  • James Bonilla

    The real assf*ck is Nitin Nohria. And the word “assf*ck” is polite compared to what else has been said about him.

  • Federac

    sorry, It seems.

  • Federac

    In the recent employment reports of their MBA, it sems that finance is the area that gaining attraction. However, I’d agree that overall, Stanford MBA isn’t really that stable as Harvard or Wharton. I don’t know why I feel that the schools in east cost are much more immune than the others.

  • biz_kid

    This is going to harm Stanford’s reputation tremendously……combine this with the tech bubble which is probably going to burst in the next year or so…affecting the job scene in the bay area….things are looking bad for Stanford

  • Done with Vishay

    You’re right, don’t shut up, because you expose your ignorance through your posts.

    Youre wrong on CEO. Not connected, just hard working. I read his profile in business magazine. You can have your own opinion but can’t make up your own facts.

    Every school, every year, denies people with higher GMAT scores than some people it admits. The only way that doesn’t happen is if the admissions is all sorting on GMAT. The Berkeley dean said their admissions dings 80% of the 750 GMATs. You claim that Stanford does this “dirty” because of Saloner.

    You explain everyone’s admissions decisions and the reasons why they happened. Are you going to start offering your own ding report? Can people send you their applications and you predict who will get in? That would be great.

  • MBA-Watch

    this is shame on Stanford. Where was the leadership of the university, its board, donators, and alumni. why did they ignore the problem this long time?!

  • DeeFan

    He does have a nice hairdo though.

  • Vishay

    Few days ago, there was an article here in this website about saloner, the article titled ” Stanford Dean “Yelled And Screamed”, I just remembered it when you finished your post here with “you should shut up” !!! is this a common thing among Stanford people, fans, alumni, students? screams, yelling, was it a hidden thing that this scandal brought to surface? You know It is my right to express my opinion whether you like it or not? right? you know there is something called “Right of expression”, Oh I forgot, these things are banned in you country, you most likely do not know what the word “rights” mean, let alone, “right to express”, there in you country, it is OK its your culture. I can not blame you, I blame your ignorance that made you jump here to “yell and scream” as usual trying to hide scandals.
    Boy: I know middle east very well. No single Stanford MBA alumnus, or alumna, has made an achievement, most of them got into the school because of the connections and perhaps money or some “dirty way”, all example that you stated are complete failure, EMAAR project in Saudi, is complete shame and failure, for almost 9 years, no one really knows what the hell are they doing there? apart from stealing people money in the IPO, and paying themselves high salaries, and you know that the CEO there is a relative of the late king? His mother is the sister of the king’s wife? you know this? you know people in Egypt and Jordan have not done any thing impressive? What I noticed for Stanford people there, is that they claimed so quickly the ladder in magic way, land jobs of CEOs with help of their fathers, nephews, relatives, in mostly public or government owned companies, and guess what? complete failure with no success at all. Unlike grads of Harvard and Wharton, who seem to be very professional and climp the ladder in a professional way, step by step, in a time frame that is reasonable and realistic.
    Do you know that Stanford in 2009, rejected 740 GMAT, 3.7 GPA, from the same background of the guy of 590? only because the poor guy of 740 was real self made? He wasn’t belong to high profile family, he wasn’t rich, he wasn’t supported by any corrupted system, however, the horrible system of Mr Saloner, didn’t give him a chance and picked that “connected” guy of 590 instead of him.

  • Irony

    Completely. The weak governance this has revealed is stunning. Where are the boards when this is happening?

  • Anti-Vishay

    OK, Middle-East-Manager/Vishay/other name. You are full of it. You know how many people a college dean or president meets? You’re wrong if you think that leads to all their kids getting admitted. You’re naive if you think that only rich kids from the Middle East get admitted or that it happens only at Stanford.

    The lowest GMAT score has to come from somewhere, probably a US minority student or a student from countries where scores are lower like Middle East. So? Do you want those people not to be admitted? Then you’d complain that nobody with low scores gets in.

    You know one person from 2009 who got in. So? Who are you to judge her/his accomplishments? Either you’re a bad friend or you don’t know the person well.

    I have worked with Stanford alumni throughout Middle East who are building the King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia, building hospitals in West Bank, starting companies in Lebanon. incubating companies in Dubai, changing government in Abu Dhabi, building schools in Jordan, founding energy companies in Egypt. I can provide names and my names are more recent than 2009. Can you? If not, you should shut up.

  • Vishay

    It is not about race! It is about those middle eastern who got in because of the corrupted systems of mr saloner! in every year the lowest gmat people are from middle east. someone with 590 GMAT with no achievement at all gotin in 2009, because his father hosted mr saloner and gave some gifts here and there. Stanford is known in middle east as the rich stupid kids club. Non of stanford MBA alumni has done anything impressive there, in fact, some of them did horribly and he just was complete shame.

  • DeeFan

    Etchemendy comes across as out of touch.

  • A_Mess

    They really just need to force Saloner out…now. He brought this upon himself. Furthermore, the school can’t possibly enjoy this kind of attention.
    I wonder if there will be any consequences for Gruenfeld. Inappropriate behavior aside, it seems as if she was conspiring with her boss to oust a colleague.

  • Vishay

    No wonder at all, I always suspect the ethics of Stanford GSB leadership and admission processes. Environment there is so toxic and not helpful at all. I didn’t like it when visited two years ago. A lot of rich and naive middle eastern boys with money and supercars, it was shame on Stanford.

  • bschool_guy

    I support Prof. Phills…..I hope gets justice….Both Dean Saloner’s and Prof. Gruenfeld’s actions were inappropriate!

  • bwanamia

    Phills is a good guy. His wife wronged him in the sense that divorce is painful and it’s damned painful to see one’s ex-wife with another guy. Saloner is no more than the other guy in this divorce scenario. Moreover, all that electronic snooping is certain to have violated several state and federal anti-wiretapping statutes. Phills should move on.

  • Cardinal16

    Our leadership is egotistical…above the law…immoral and unethical. It doesn’t end there: a handful of students are caught up in the clouds chasing lottery ticket apps and silly startups behind the coattails of a tech industry bubble.

    Moreover, the administration is full of self-serving racketeers. Not only is my Dean a sexist bigot, but he is clearly a racist. We all want him gone so that we can stop the bleeding, begin to recover, and move forward. #OustSaloner

  • Yucky Stanford

    No surprise Gruenfeld is both a cheater on her marriage and a cheater in her thesis. Frikin skank.

  • pft

    Stanford is a den of thieves