Stanford School of Business rocked as Dean steps down amid unlikely sex triangle

Garth Saloner stood down last month to protect 'stellar school’s deserved reputation'

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Wednesday 21 October 2015 15:34
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Julie Lythcott-Haims spent a decade a dean of freshmen at Stanford University
Julie Lythcott-Haims spent a decade a dean of freshmen at Stanford University

It was, by any definition, a bizarre love triangle.

The dean of Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, Garth Saloner, had a relationship with a woman whose estranged husband was also a professor at the college and whom he technically supervised.

A lawsuit filed by the woman’s estranged husband has alleged that Mr Saloner punished the husband to better benefit his new girlfriend.

Now it has emerged, that such has been the furore created by the lawsuit alleging wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress, that Mr Saloner has taken the decision to step down.

“As many of you know, the university and I have been vigorously defending a baseless and protracted lawsuit related to a contentious divorce between a current and former member of our faculty,” he said in a statement released by the school last month.

“I have become increasingly concerned that the ongoing litigation and growing media interest will distract you from the important work that you are doing and unfairly impact this stellar school’s deserved reputation.”

Mr Saloner became involved with social psychologist Deborah Gruenfeld, 53, who was married to Jim Phills, 55, a business professor who she started divorce proceedings against him in 2012.

Mr Phills, a former wrestler, learned of his wife’s relationship when Ms Gruenfeld asked him to take a look at her phone, which was not working properly. Reports in the US media said Mr Phills then found graphic text and email messages between the pair.

There were also said to be messages calling him a "sociopath" and one suggesting he should be castrated in public.

The New York Times said that Mr Phills’ lawsuit also revealed the existence of a 2014 petition signed by 46 current and former employees, 10 per cent of the staff members, who claimed there was “a hostile work environment” that differentiated “on the basis of gender and age.”

John Etchemendy, Stanford’s provost, said that Stanford had hired separate outside investigators and that neither had found systemic discrimination. But he acknowledged “weaknesses in management” and said they were being addressed.

“We have very high standards of behavior and for the most part achieve them better than any other institution I know,” he told the newspaper. “But we sometimes fall short.”

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