Anatomy Of A Rebellion: Inside The Revolt Against Stanford GSB Dean Garth Saloner

Stanford University's Quad where the provost met with a delegation of six former GSB officials

Stanford University’s Quad where the provost met with a delegation of six former GSB officials

Jenson had purportedly been pushed out of the school after what the group say was an unfounded accusation of misspending $1,600 in GSB funds. Jenson, who had been executive director of the Center for Global Business and the Economy after 15 years as a marketing executive with General Mills, had been stripped of all financial responsibility, making it impossible for her to do her job effectively, according to a testimonial sent to Etchemendy and obtained by Poets&Quants. Later research found that the expenses in question had been okayed by the GSB’s finance department, and were part of a budget approved by the dean’s budget review committee, the group says. It was at a “wake” for Jenson at her home after she was allegedly turfed out that the decision was made to take aim at Saloner and start gathering signatures for the letter to the provost.

The Group of 46 urged Etchemendy not to reappoint Saloner to a second five-year term as dean. On top of making allegations about abuse of staff – backed up by testimonials detailing individual experiences – the group claimed Saloner had set a bad example to students, and exposed the school to liability, by embarking on an affair with a professor married to another professor. That relationship led to a lawsuit by former professor Jim Phills, husband of Saloner’s lover Deborah Gruenfeld, against Saloner and Stanford. Revelations from that lawsuit led Saloner last month to announce his resignation from the deanship, effective at the end of the academic year.

PROVOST ALREADY HAD A DOG IN THE FIGHT

What the delegation sent to meet with Etchemendy didn’t know at the time was that the provost had made a key decision with regard to Saloner’s affair, a decision that was to become a central focus in Phills’ wrongful-termination and employment discrimination lawsuit.

Etchemendy has his office on the school’s main quad, in a two-story building fronted by an arched portico and topped with the distinctive Stanford red-tile roof. Two weeks before the meeting, Etchemendy had received the letter calling for an end to Saloner’s deanship, and agreed to meet with representatives from the group.

The delegation for the 8 a.m. meeting was comprised of Jenson, Hoffman, former head of the GSB Center for Social Innovation Kriss Deiglmeier, former GSB director of the Stanford Global Supply Chain Management Forum Shoshanah Cohen, former executive director of the GSB Center for Entrepreneurial Studies Linda Wells, and Beth Benjamin, who had been the GSB’s director of strategic initiatives and development for two years and previously the founding executive director for five years at the GSB Center for Leadership Development and Research. The group sat down with Etchemendy. Benjamin remembers that the provost appeared harried and rushed, expressing an attitude of, “‘Let’s just get through this, this is sort of an imposition on my time.”

‘LAYOFF OF ONE’ AFTER A DECADE’S SERVICE

Benjamin had been subjected to what she describes as “a layoff of one” from the school at which she’d earned her PhD in organizational behavior in 1994. In 2010, after a decade working at the GSB, she received an email saying her job had been eliminated during the dean’s review of her strategic initiatives group.

“No HR representative was involved in the decision,” Benjamin says in one of the testimonials submitted to the provost with the Group of 46 letter.

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