The plot of an academic novel? Perhaps, but it's playing out in real life, in the Stanford Graduate School of Business, no less.
Garth Saloner, who has led the nation’s most selective business school for six years, will step down next summer. He is accused in the lawsuit by James Phills of creating a hostile working environment for the professor.Professor Saloner has a solid research record in industrial economics, a field of economics that offers practitioners opportunities to hire out at business schools. But fishing off the company pier is a good way to get into trouble.
Phills was on the business school faculty for 12 years until losing the job this year and is divorcing Deborah Gruenfeld, a tenured member of the business school faculty. Saloner, a widower, began a relationship with Phills’ wife after the couple separated in 2012, the university said Monday, noting that “the dean informed Stanford leadership at the very beginning of the relationship.”
In the lawsuit Phills filed last year in Santa Clara County Superior Court, he accuses Stanford of permitting Saloner to carry on an affair with a subordinate — Gruenfeld, a professor who was the business school’s sexual harassment advisor from 2010 to 2012 — while allowing the dean to “participate in and/or make decisions about” the employment of Phills, also a subordinate of Saloner.Professor Phills had, and continues to hold, an appointment with Apple's in-house university, the article doesn't detail whether time conflicts might have led to his termination at Stanford.
Phills also claims that Saloner used access to Phills’ confidential employment records to help Gruenfeld in the couple’s divorce case, among other allegations.
According to Stanford, “others in the university” made the final decisions about matters involving Phills and Gruenfeld, a reference to such disputes as their shared university housing and Phills’ employment. He was fired this year.
Make what you will of Professor Gruenfeld being the sexual harassment advisor. Are she and the dean companionable by the book, or are rules for the little people?