GSB Scandal A Non-Issue For Applicants

Stanford GSB

When tomorrow’s round one deadline for applications at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business ticks off at 5 p.m., Paul Wyper will be among the nearly 3,000 hopeful candidates. Like most of those applicants, he has read the scandalous stories that led to the resignation of Stanford Dean Garth Saloner.

But those stories, detailing allegations that the dean has created a culture ruled by “personal agendas, favoritism, and fear,” don’t give him a moment’s hesitation about attending Stanford’s prestigious MBA program. “The news out of Stanford doesn’t change my opinion of the school or its reputation,” insists Wyper. “In my view, the core value proposition for applicants remains the same. Stanford offers a cutting-edge and dynamic curriculum, world-class faculty and a premium brand. The reported indiscretions of a select few individuals certainly won’t affect my decision to apply.”

And Wyper is no ordinary candidate. A 27-year-old former mergers and acquisitions attorney, he sports a sky high 760 GMAT score, lives in Sydney, Australia, and works as a management consultant at one of the world’s leading firms, Bain & Co. He also has applied to many other of the most highly selective MBA programs: Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, and London Business School.

“I WOULD BE FAR MORE CONCERNED ABOUT A VC FUNDING BUBBLE COLLAPSING’

Wyper will, no doubt, have plenty of company. Several applicants tell Poets&Quants that the allegations, which have made headlines all over the world, won’t deter them from applying, either. MBA admission consultants say their clients have told them that the school’s stellar reputation overcomes a few tawdry headlines that are bound to disappear over time.

“The scandal at the GSB will have absolutely no impact on application volumes,” believes Jeremy Shinewald, founder and CEO of mbaMission, a leading admissions consulting firm. “The GSB brand has been built over decades and has surged along with Silicon Valley. It will in no way affect what matters most (pun intended) to Stanford applicants – getting a high-paying post-MBA job and a network that will be invaluable going forward. If I were an MBA applicant, I would be far more concerned with a VC funding bubble collapsing over the next few years. That would have a much bigger potential personal impact.”

Some think the controversy might even encourage MBA wannabes, otherwise scared off by the school’s highly selective 7% acceptance rate, to throw in an application this year. “This controversy might discourage some individuals from applying in Round 2, but I doubt it will deter many who have nearly completed their Round 1 apps,” says Dan Bauer, founder and CEO of The MBA Exchange, a top admissions consulting firm. “This situation could even motivate incremental applicants who previously thought admission to Stanford was out of reach to give it a try, anticipating that GSB application volume will be down and thus their chances for success will increase. It’s a perfect storm.”

‘THEY WILL GET RIGHT BACK TO THEIR APPLICATIONS WITH THE SAVE VERVE’

Alex Leventhal of Prep MBA Admissions Consulting agrees. “From what I’ve read, I don’t think this situation alone will have a significant impact,” adds Leventhal, a Harvard MBA and veteran consultant. “This controversy seems to be between a set of people, and these types of behaviors happen at many schools and companies.  For those seeking the Stanford education and brand power, this may be an unpleasant or salacious topic to read about, but then they will get right back to their applications with the same verve.”

It was only a week ago today that Dean Saloner announced he was stepping down from his job at the end of the academic year, citing what he termed “a baseless and protracted lawsuit related to a contentious divorce between a current and former member of our faculty.” What he failed tor reveal was that the current faculty member, Deborah Gruenfeld, is his lover and married to the former faculty member, James Phills. He also did not reveal that he failed to recuse himself from personnel decisions involving Phills while carrying on a romantic relationship with Phills wife or that 46 current and former staffers and faculty at the school had asked the university provost not to reappoint him to a second term as dean.

“The details of the case are salacious,” says Shinewald, “but the day to day of an average student will not change: classes, clubs, recruiting, socializing, etc. The departure of the Dean will not change anything in the short term – it will take years for Saloner’s momentum to shift. Anyone applying now will be in his school for the next two years. A new dean will be named, but the institution won’t change radically overnight – today’s applicant will still be in Saloner’s MBA program.”

Lucille Sanciaux, a French-born audit associate for Deloitte, says she believes that what happened at the school is largely “a private matter” and should not have caused the dean to resign his position. In any case, she says, the news doesn’t alter her plans. Sanciaux expects to apply to Stanford, along with a group of 11 other high profile U.S. business schools, for admission in the fall of 2017. “This controversy does not change anything at all,” she believes. “I am still very interested in applying to Stanford. To me, there are a few criteria which separate the great universities from the rest: Students coming from diverse backgrounds; excited to learn; professors willing to teach how to think instead of what to think, and an administration dedicated to creating a better university for the students and faculty. What happened to Stanford does not break any of these criteria.”

About the Author...

John A. Byrne

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.