Five students accuse former FGCU professor of sexual harassment

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Five FGCU students have come forward to investigators to disclose the inappropriate actions of a former music professor, according to documents obtained from an FGCU investigation.

After the first complainant came forward with her claims, the others followed suit.

It was allegedly a well-kept secret, as students talked among themselves about the inappropriate things—sexual in nature—this professor said and did, the documents showed. But the students were too afraid to say anything because they did not want to jeopardize their grades.

“That’s crazy that that many people had to say something,” said Alex Villatte, a current FGCU student.

The investigation into Rod Chesnutt started in August when the school’s provost received a flash drive containing provocative photos of students, the documents showed. It was the same device Chesnutt used to store school documents and assignments.

It is unclear who turned in the flash drive to the university’s provost.

The flash drive also revealed that Chesnutt may have violated the university’s Consensual Relationship Policy by engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a student, the documents showed.

In late August, a meeting was arranged between Chesnutt and the complainant to discuss the contents of the drive, the documents showed. In a later meeting with the school’s provost, he admitted to having an inappropriate relationship with the student while she was in his class.

The following day, Chesnutt was put on administrative leave pending the outcome of the university’s investigation, the documents showed.

Chesnutt resigned from the university six weeks later, prior to the conclusion of the investigation.

After local news outlets, including the Fort Myers News-Press, reported Chesnutt’s resignation, four additional complainants came forward with sexual harassment claims, the documents showed.

The students told investigators that Chesnutt often commented on their looks, the documents showed.

One student said she learned not to do certain things around him, like turn her back to him, walk in front of him or bend over his desk, the documents showed. On multiple occasions, the women accuse Chesnutt of trying to get them to stay in his hotel room.

“The magic is that one survivor comes forward and opens up and speaks his or her truth, it does have a domino effect and there’s a moment when you see a coalition bubble up and emerge,” said Megan Shindler, an FGCU alum.

Shindler, who started an advocacy group against sexual violence, says it’s not surprising that Chestnutt is accused of abusing his power within the music industry and the school.

“It’s happening at every school all over the nation, all over the world. One in four college women and one in 16 college men experience sexual violence in their college careers,” she said.

The investigation concluded that Chesnutt “more likely than not harassed the complainants based on sex” in violation of the university’s anti-harassment policies, the documents showed.

FGCU did not respond to requests for a comment.

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