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Florida State investigates three professors for sexual misconduct


Formal investigations had not all been disclosed before

Florida State University quietly fired one professor, suspended another who resigned months later, and allowed a third to stay on after determining they had committed sexual misconduct in separate incidents with students , according to records.

One of them held a part-time teaching position at another university in Florida.

Not all formal investigations had previously been disclosed. At least one ran through the summer of 2021. In each case, investigators concluded that all three faculty members had violated the university’s policies on sex discrimination and sexual misconduct. FSU made no announcement on the cases or the results.

The investigation reports were obtained under the Florida Public Records Act. One of the cases illustrates the differences in the rules at Florida universities and public colleges regarding professors who have relationships with students: some allow them in certain circumstances; others forbid them.

In a statement, Dennis Schnittker, FSU’s assistant vice president for academic communications, said “Sexual misconduct is not tolerated by Florida State University, whether by faculty, staff, or students. , visitors or others.

“As has been demonstrated in these cases, it is important that any violations of the university’s sexual misconduct policy are promptly reported so that the university can take immediate and appropriate action,” he said. added.

Report: Instructor pressured student to get drunk

The university fired Ross May, 38, his associate director of FSU’s Family Institute, which studies how parents can develop healthy environments for their children, following allegations that May pressured a student to quit ‘he gets drunk, having squeezed her “forcefully” into a photograph. and bet another student $ 50 that he could have sex with her by the end of the semester.

The incidents reportedly occurred in 2019 and the investigation was completed in May 2020.

May teaches two online courses at the University of West Florida, according to documents from that university.

In an academic article he published earlier this month with Frank Fincham, director of the Family Institute, May said he worked as a researcher at the MD Education Institute in Miami, which he said was now gone.

In another article he published this year with Fincham, on the topic of divine forgiveness, May was listed as working with the Healthy Relationships and Lifestyle Center in Broomfield, Colorado.

May said in an interview that he had agreed to leave the former USSR despite what he called the unfounded conclusions of the investigation: “I honored their decision and was happy to leave my post. “

He added: “As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time trying to empirically understand the forgiveness process, I apologize to anyone who may have felt wronged during the investigation, and I wish them good luck in their endeavors. “

Another sexually explicit email sent, according to FSU

Another professor, David Gilbert, 62, said he was suspended without pay for two weeks and then resigned after a graduate student accused him of sending him a sexually explicit email in January 2020 In the email, Gilbert described an erotic dream that included the student. , and said he hoped something like this would happen in the future.

“We ‘mature’ guys like to work slowly – take our time and savor every minute,” he wrote, according to the investigation report. Gilbert had been the distinguished J. Herbert Taylor professor of molecular biology at the university.

Gilbert also told the student that he named his sailboat “Blow me” and invited her to travel to Japan with him, after separating from his wife, according to the report. He was also accused of speaking derisively about former President Donald Trump, telling a student “that she must be a Trump supporter in an insulting way,” according to the report.

Another person from the state of Florida warned Gilbert, “Just watch you don’t get MeToo’d,” the report says, a reference to the social justice movement against sexual abuse and sexual harassment by employers who went viral in 2017.

Gilbert resigned a few months after the investigation ended in April 2020 and is now a principal investigator at the San Diego Biomedical Research Institute.

Gilbert admitted to investigators that he sent the sexually inappropriate email and one similar, jokingly invited students to Japan and kissed a female student on the neck. He said other charges were “hearsay, out of context or false.”

He said part of his behavior was due to poor judgment after separating from his wife and his son died by suicide, and said he was seeking therapy, according to the report.

Gilbert said in an interview that he was honest with investigators, apologized to those involved and agreed to the two-week suspension from college before resigning later.

FSU: Third instructor had inappropriate relationship with three students

The third investigation involved John “Read” Gainsford, a music teacher still working at the College of Music. The university concluded after its investigation ended in July that Gainsford had engaged in inappropriate sex with at least three students, even though he did not educate or supervise them, as he holds “considerable institutional authority and influence. within the college and thereafter throughout the College of Music. students. ”

During the investigation, Gainsford described a relationship as “friends with benefits” – meaning sex without serious commitment – with a College of Music student he met on an app. online dating. He said he also had a relationship with another student whom he later married.

The college’s dean at the time, Patricia Flowers, told investigators in June she had heard no reports or rumors about Gainsford’s dealings with the students. “I’m actually blinded by it,” she said.

Gainsford admitted to investigators that such relationships were reckless. “The students are chatting with each other and nothing good can come of it,” he said.

The student who opened the investigation accused Gainsford of non-consensual sex on at least five occasions – including once when the student had passed out from alcohol, the report said, but the university has concluded that this was unfounded.

When questioning the State of Florida on these incidents, Gainsford said “this is not how I remember it” and said he would never have non-consensual sex with anyone. it would be.

The State of Florida also concluded that Gainsford did not create an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment because it was “more likely than not” that the student accepted Gainsford’s sexual demands.

Gainsford pointed out in an interview that he had been cleared of the allegations of sexual assault and the creation of a hostile educational environment, and declined to discuss the investigation further.

The State of Florida allows professors to become involved in student relations as long as they have no supervision or authority over them, such as assigning grades. In these cases, professors are required to disclose the relationship to their department supervisors.

“We have established many channels for reporting issues and are diligent in our responsiveness,” Schnittker said in the FSU statement.

This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service from the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida. The reporter can be contacted at tristan.wood@ufl.edu.