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Stanford Faculty Predict Dean Saloner Will Be Gone Before Long

Vanity Fair weighs in with a lengthy article on a growing controversy at Stanford

Vanity Fair weighs in with a lengthy article on a growing controversy at Stanford

Some of the faculty at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business believe that beleaguered Dean Garth Saloner won’t survive the academic year in his job.

The revelation appears in a major Vanity Fair article on the dean, his affair with a GSB professor, and the litigation that has ensued from her estranged husband who had taught at the business school. 

The story, entitled “Inside Stanford Business School’s Spiraling Sex Scandal,” is to be published in the December issue of Vanity Fair. The article is sure to cause Stanford University, its business school, Provost John Etchemendy, and Deborah Gruenfeld, the professor having the affair with the dean, even greater embarrassment and reputation damage than the university and the officials have already suffered. It also threatens to undermine John Hennessy’s legacy as president of the university.

Among other things, the article raises questions over how honest Saloner was in describing his romantic relationship with Gruenfeld to Provost Etchemendy, and Gruenfeld is said to have admitted fudging the data on an important academic research project that, her husband contends, was her award-winning PhD dissertation.


Writes author David Margolick in Vanity Fair, “The money-raisers, one former administrator told me, are in ‘panic mode.’ ‘What a mess,’ one G.S.B. professor lamented. ‘You know the phrase ‘mutually assured destruction’?’ asked another. ‘This is what we got.’”

Stanford GSB Dean Garth Saloner and professor Deborah Gruenfeld - Daily Mail photo

Stanford GSB Dean Garth Saloner and professor Deborah Gruenfeld – Daily Mail photo

Some of Saloner’s faculty colleagues predict that, given the likely emergence of additional embarrassments, he won’t survive the academic year as dean, wrote Margolick. He quotes by name one of the school’s most well-known professors, Charles O’Reilly III, who teaches leadership and organizational behavior, being critical of the dean. “That training [on sexual harassment] is crystal-clear about our obligations,” says O’Reilly. “And if the dean doesn’t comply, what’s the signal to the rest of us?”

Margolick relates a story from Jim Phills – Gruenfeld’s husband who has filed a wrongful termination suit against Saloner and Stanford – purporting that two GSB professors, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton, bet a fancy dinner on whether Saloner would last a year in his post after the lawsuit was filed.

One GSB professor predicted to Vanity Fair that, among students, Saloner will become an object of ridicule, and that the castration he spoke of in one Internet chat with his lover—“Knife. Penis. Public Square”—will surely be reprised as a campus catchphrase. He also predicted that Saloner will be tapping into his extensive Silicon Valley ties to find himself a job there.


The phrase Saloner texted Gruenfeld, ostensibly referencing the erotic Japanese art film In the Realm of the Senses, was meant to suggest that is what should happen to Phills.

One Saloner supporter at the GSB told Margolick that he was worried for the dean, because Saloner had taken all his eggs from the academic basket and put them in administration – a realm that has now blown up in his face. “This is going to destroy him,” the man said. “I don’t quite know how he recovers from this.”