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Whistleblower says FGCU knew of professor's alleged sexual misconduct for years

Posted at 7:40 AM, May 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-26 07:43:51-04

FORT MYERS, Fla., -- A former Florida Gulf Coast adjunct professor says he told the university about Dr. Rod Chesnutt's alleged sexual harassment towards students years prior to the school conducting an internal investigation. 

“For five years the university knew — six years and did nothing," said Bill Larsen, the former adjunct professor in the music program. 

Larsen says he worked for the university for six years. In 2012, he says multiple students came to him claiming they were getting sexually harassed by Dr. Chesnutt. 

"I went straight to the interim and I sent my students to the dean of college of arts and science," said Larsen.

Larsen says he was told the university was handling the situation. Two months later he was sent an email stating his contract was not renewed, while Dr. Chesnutt continued to work at the school. Former FGCU student, Victor Frumoff, says as a male student he was passed up routinely by female students who were victims of Chesnutt's sexual harassment. 

“No amount of talent was going to bring me success...he was the gate keeper and he was keeping it shut for me," explained Frumoff. 

In 2017, FGCU conducted an internal investigation into the allegations. Five complainants claimed Chesnutt would do things such as make remarks on their clothes, ask them on dates, and touch them inappropriately. In the summary, it states: [It was] unwelcome behavior that was severe, persistent and pervasive. 

“You needed to curry his favor, but to watch out for his advances," said Frumoff, describing the culture of the music program. "You had to tiptoe that fine line.” 

Frumoff says he also came forward about Chesnutt's behavior in 2012. Fox 4 asked FGCU if they knew of the allegations prior to conducting the 2017 investigation. A spokesperson gave this statement: 

"Last year (2017) when information came to the University's attention about possible wrongdoing by professor Rod Chesnutt (this is the correct spelling), we immediately began a comprehensive investigation through our Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance, and Title IX.  Dr. Chesnutt was placed on administrative leave and relieved of his duties pending the outcome of the investigation.  While the investigation was under way and became public knowledge, some additional students came forward with related concerns.  Their concerns, also, were investigated as we place a very high priority on ensuring that our students have a supportive and safe environment in which to learn.  Before the investigation was completed, Dr. Chesnutt resigned from his position at FGCU.  Regardless, we completed the investigation and issued an investigation report.

Mr. William Larsen previously worked as an adjunct at FGCU...He was not in a regular employee position and did not have an employment contract.  Adjuncts are hired on a semester by semester basis when there is a need for a temporary worker to teach a course as enrollment demand warrants."  

Frumoff says he ended up transferring and leaving the music business altogether. 

“Almost everybody that came forward with me was forced out of the program and every staff member was fired," he explained. 

For Larsen, he says it's his former students that deserve an apology from Chesnutt. 

"Not to me. I’m okay. I came out of this okay. But some of my students didn’t.”