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Dean Saloner Violated Code of Conduct

Stanford University Graduate School of Business

Stanford University Graduate School of Business

Investigators hired by Stanford University found that the dean of its business school violated the university’s code of conduct in unfairly dealing with several school officials who say they were forced from their positions by the dean.

The investigation was conducted last year by a Silicon Valley law firm after 46 current and former staffers at the school urged Provost John Etchemendy not to reappoint Dean Garth Saloner to a second five-year term. They charged that Saloner had created a “hostile workplace” in which staff, particularly women and people over 40, were hounded out of jobs and roles amid numerous violations of Stanford’s Code of Conduct and HR policies.

Anger and frustration toward Saloner had been building for years among employees. Leaders of the staff revolt which included 27 current and 19 former GSB employees portray Saloner as an arrogant narcissist who used staff as pawns in his power plays, meted out punishments against anyone who disagreed with him, and manipulated women out of influential positions so he could surround himself with “yes men.”


Dean Garth Saloner

Dean Garth Saloner

The group also claimed that 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.

The finding by the law firm was disclosed in a New York Times article published today (Oct. 21) on the still growing controversy over Saloner’s leadership of the business school and his failure to recuse himself from personnel decisions that directly impacted his lover’s husband.

The Times story is the latest in a string of articles containing highly embarrassing details of the scandal. Saloner announced on Sept. 14 that he would step down from his job at the end of the academic year. On that day, Poets&Quants published a weeks-long investigation on the controversy that has since been covered all over the world by publications ranging from Bloomberg Businessweek and Vanity Fair to The Daily Beast, The Wall Street Journal, and The Daily Mail.


The probe by the law firm was launched shortly after a group of former GSB staffers brought their complaints to Provost Etchemendy. At that meeting in early May of last year, the provost had promised an external investigation. Leaders of the delegation, who waited six months for the probe to be concluded, described it as a whitewash. Most telling, they suggest, was that the investigation largely covered incidents occurring within the previous three years, the period in which the school could be legally liable under the California statute of limitations for claims against employers.

Still, The Times, citing documents in the case, reported that the investigation noted that according to Stanford’s code of conduct, “the rules of fairness, honesty and respect for the rights of others” must govern behavior in the absence of any specific regulations.

“The investigators concluded that the leaders of the business school, ‘including but not limited to the dean,’ had not consistently behaved in accordance with this policy,” according to The New York Times.

About The Author

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.