Phills told Margolick he’s not fighting for Saloner’s scalp, but to bring to light hypocrisy, dishonesty, cronyism, and bad character in an institution responsible for preparing the business leaders of tomorrow. Phills claimed to Vanity Fair that he was saddened and surprised by Saloner’s resignation announcement, saying, “It was completely avoidable, if the university had done the right thing.”
As for what lay behind Phills’ introduction into the lawsuit, and into his custody battle with Gruenfeld, an allegation that Gruenfeld faked data on her PhD thesis, Margolick suggests Phills acted out of desperation. Gruenfeld had allegedly admitted, in a document she wrote to a life coach, that she had fudged data for an important research project. Phills says she told him afterward that the project was her award-winning PhD thesis. In a deposition referred to in Vanity Fair, Gruenfeld denies saying or writing “any such thing” and says the allegation is false. Margolick quotes GSB professor Margaret Neale saying that Greenfield’s “scholarly integrity and courage are unassailable” and that it was “impossible” Gruenfeld had manipulated data.
Phills put the allegation into the court cases, Margolick writes, after Gruenfeld had obtained a six-month restraining order against him, following a confrontation between the couple in front of their home in March 2013, three months after Phills had filed for divorce. In applying for the order she noted that Phills owned guns and had been a highly ranked wrestler. Gruenfeld was also granted primary custody of the two girls, and Phills was allowed to see them only on Tuesday nights and every other weekend.
A MAN WITH A GUN AT THE CLASSROOM DOOR
Although Phills apparently seldom used the guns – a high-end .45 handgun and over-under shotgun, a bolt-action .223 caliber rifle, and a .22 pistol – other than for a handful of target-practice outings, and had become what he describes as a “sedentary and overweight academic,” Gruenfeld had at one point stationed an armed guard outside her classroom for fear that her husband would shoot her, Vanity Fair reported.
Saloner and Gruenfeld’s relationship remains ongoing. Phills told Vanity Fair he expects the lawsuit and his divorce from Gruenfeld to drag on. Insiders at the GSB describe immense concern from alumni over the scandal, and it’s no surprise that the school’s fundraisers – who have seen half a billion dollars flow in under Saloner’s deanship – are in “panic mode.” Whether Saloner, the school, and the university can stand the pressure till the end of the academic year, when Saloner is to leave his post as dean and go back to working as a professor, remains to be seen.
Poets&Quants has asked Stanford to respond to the material in the Vanity Fair article, but received no response by press time. Any comments provided will be added.