Why GSB Dean Fired His Chief Digital Officer

Stanford University Graduate School of Business – Ethan Baron photo


While Dean Levin’s only public comments on the controversy have occurred in two emails sent to GSB students, faculty and staff on Nov. 17th and Nov. 30, his second message suggests at the very least irritation that he was not notified of the breach when it was patched Jayaraman’s team. Levin wrote: “They did not understand the scope of the exposure and did not escalate it to me or relevant university offices for further investigation. The episode makes clear that we will need to implement improved practices around data security, and especially, to ensure that if problems are identified, they are escalated and promptly addressed in full.”

Stanford MBA student Adam Allcock

In October, after Dean Levin received Allcock’s report, the dean called Jayaraman into his office for a conversation over what had happened. Immediately, Jayaraman realized he had made a mistake in not notifying his boss eight months earlier when his team found out about the problem and quickly fixed it. “My reaction was oops,” concedes Jayaraman. “I should have done this way back then.”

On Friday, Jayaraman sent his colleagues a remorseful goodbye email, informing them of his departure. “I take full responsibility for the failure to recognize the scope and nature of the J Drive data exposure and report it in a timely manner to the Dean​ and the University Information Security and ​Privacy Office​s,” he wrote. “I am fully accountable for this inexcusable error in judgement.”


For now, Jayaraman is wrestling with the lessons from the controversy. “A total network system is a combination of technology, process and people,” he says. “One of the greater lessons to keep in mind is that failures result from the interplay among tech, people and processes that result in possibliities, good and bad. As a soceity we must keep these things in balance. For all the benefits technology has brought, we are still in the infancy of understanding how technology can be both helpful and harmful and how we can protect against the downsides. The flaw would be thinking that at any given time we are perfect.”

A few years ago, when he was the CIO of NVIDIA, Jayaraman read a book called Chasing The Rabbit written by Steven J. Spear, a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. A quote from the book has stuck with him to this day, he says: “No team can design a perfect system in advance, planning for every contingency and nuance. but great teams can discover how to keep improving a system to be better and better.”

“Failures, adverse events and mistakes are the little alarm bells that trigger the learning of teams,” reasons Jayaraman. “The greater lesson is that every organization that wants to be high performing should view mistakes and adverse events for what they are. They should trigger an exploration of where a system is weak and how it can be strengthened. I strongly believe that mistakes are an opporutnity for a team to know the limits of our knowledge and our ignorance and to learn from it and become stronger.”


  • Sunny

    What a joke! If the CDO had informed the Dean in Feb, the outcome would have changed? Fired the guy in Feb instead of Dec???? They need a head to roll and it is convenient to fire him, that’s all! The fact of the matter is that they have been dishonest in their disclosure regarding Aid – possibly done by every major business school. What are they doing to address that?

  • Chantal

    Using the dishonest policy that GSB awards only need based $ can fob off all applicants regardless of their actual need. Finance types need to pay for spring breaks in Cabo, skiing in Vail and wine tasting in Nappa.

  • You have no idea what you are talking about. Here are three statements taken from Stanford’s website (and since removed in the aftermath of the controversy).

    “All fellowships are based on financial need.”

    “The Stanford GSB Financial Aid Office does not offer merit-based fellowships.”

    “Please be aware that we do not negotiate fellowship amounts or eligibility. Your academic or professional performance/merit is not used in financial aid decisions.”

  • Grouponcollector

    Fake News?
    Good job and keep the faith. You need thick skin to brave the haters.

  • Lord Stark

    lol it would be truly epic if you are the “real” Adam Allcock.

  • joanne@missionctrl.com

    “For years, the school claimed that it only awarded scholarship dollars on the basis of financial need…”

    False. Admissions itself is needs-blind. The aid policy is consistent with that of other top tier private universities.

  • Urvi

    GSB should have fired the Chief Financial Aid Officer. I am will Allcock that this needs to brought to people’s attention.

  • Of course, that was a cumulative sales number–not a profit number–and it was a long time ago when Allcock was a teenager, according to an article about him when he won this prize sponsored by Google.

  • Adam Allcock

    > The guy with a $1+ million business

    That’s news to me! Unfortunately, you can’t believe everything you read online.

  • quin

    He is a vigilante exposing the school to be full of it. freedom fighter.

  • Anon

    What if Allcock hadn’t turned up any GSB improprieties? Do you think he would have announced that he had not just glanced at a few financial files, but had downloaded masses of sensitive student financial information and spent months poring over them, for whatever reason he initially had in doing it? I wonder at what point when he was looking at these files did it occur to him that he shouldn’t be looking at them at all and that he should immediately alert GSB that the files might have been made available to the GSB community by mistake? Devoid of integrity, this guy is sure living up to his last name.

  • Anon

    So let’s be real about why Adam did this. The guy with a $1+ million business was seriously upset that he was passed over for scholarship money? Let’s be real. He was hoping to expose underrepresented groups getting more money than he is, and is even more hurt to discover that people that look just like him (albeit more female, but in financial services / rich) are getting money while he is not. Those familiar with Stanford can look around and summarize the demographic of individuals coming from financial services. Spoiler: it’s not heavily “female.”

  • Anon

    HBS definitely does the exact same thing. I was a dual-admit a few years ago between them and GSB. GSB gave me a bunch of money, HBS did not. I brought my GSB letter to HBS. A few days later I get a call from their dean of financial aid, and magically HBS had calculated their formula wrong and gave me $5k more than Stanford. All of the schools do this — nothing wrong with it if they were just transparent about it. There is a war for talent. I ended up choosing HBS, but my understanding is they have been losing to Stanford for awhile on dial-admits so I’m guessing they’re probably even more aggressive for someone they really want (I know some of my classmates had a similar experience).

  • Anon

    That’s a really good point. Now that I think about it, it is likely true. I would not trust their magic.

  • tim

    haha what a joke. just a scapegoat.

    you know HBS has to be afraid since they likely do the exact same thing. wake up people.