JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – East Tennessee State University is trying to fire a tenured music professor following an internal investigation that found he sexually harassed two faculty members, according to university records. While he fights his proposed termination, David Champouillon remains on paid suspension.
Hundreds of pages of ETSU records show faculty and students have accused Champouillon of lewd and inappropriate behavior. The university initiated an internal investigation after two faculty members filed sexual harassment complaints in late 2016, records revealed. Both faculty members alleged Champouillon’s inappropriate behavior resulted in a hostile work environment in ETSU’s music department. The investigation substantiated the allegations, according to records.
ETSU notified Champouillon that the university was seeking his “Termination for Adequate Cause” in November for “Capricious disregard of accepted standards of professional conduct,” according to university records.
Some of the allegations are graphic. They include comments Champouillon reportedly made about students and co-workers’ bodies, his personal sex life and other unwanted sexual comments, according to records. The investigation revealed his behavior went back years, to as early as 2009, and identified at least 50 instances, according to ETSU records.
The investigation found, among other things, that he once insinuated a colleague looked like a stripper in the presence of students, saying “All you’re missing is a pole,” according to his termination letter. The university’s Title IX investigator also found Champouillon once made a derogatory comment about a female colleague, according to records.
The investigation found in 2016, he shined a flashlight on a student’s rear end and told her “that looks nice,” he told a student her boots and glasses “are very sexy” and when a student delivered a box to his office later that year, called her “a pretty young lady” and asked her to bend over and open it, adding “You’ve done me a favor, now I owe you one. They call me the fixer around here,” according to ETSU records.
ETSU placed Champouillon on administrative leave in September after the university received the complaints, records revealed. The professor appealed the decision, but a committee upheld his paid suspension by a vote of 6-1 last month pending the outcome of formal disciplinary proceedings, according to ETSU records. According to state records, Champouillon’s annual salary is $63,000.
Champouillon’s attorney Jim Culp insists the man has never done anything inappropriate.
“I can’t try the case in the media, but the fact is he just hasn’t done these things,” Culp said. “They’re two sides to every story. Things that Dr. Champouillon has been accused of he vigorously denies. He has not done those things. He has not harassed anyone.”
Culp acknowledges the professor’s personality can be off-putting to some. He and his client suggest disgruntled faculty and former students have made up lies about him.
“He’s outspoken and sometimes brash, but he is courteous and respectful of people too,” Culp said. “He’s a decent man who can be abrasive and there are times, I think, when people get angry with him and don’t let go of grudges very easily. I think that he has had concerted hostility directed toward him, not by the university as an institution, but by people within its community.”
Culp, the son of a former ETSU president, says Champouillon intends to fight the university, the allegations, and the proposed termination all the way. As an attorney, he says he only takes on the university when ETSU is wrong.
“I think they’re dead wrong,” he said of the university.
Champouillon denied the accusations himself in an October letter to ETSU’s Office of Equity and Diversity.
“I categorically deny these accusations,” he said in the letter. “Overall, these complaints about 4-5 years of improper behavior, are the result of students lying to faculty, other faculty lying to faculty, or the appearance of administrators breaking personnel confidentiality…The allegations are baseless, unwitnessed, hearsay, double hearsay, undocumented, and even simply made up out of a fear – a fear that has been propagated by disgruntled former students and faculty…These false accusations have done irreparable harm to my reputation and adversely affected the education of ETSU trumpet and jazz ensemble students.”
ETSU spokesperson Joe Smith said the university can’t talk about the details of the case.
“It’s our policy that we don’t comment on the specifics of any kind of personnel investigation here at the university,” Smith said. “We take any complaint of sexual harassment very seriously and they are investigated.”
In general terms, Smith said the outcomes and disciplinary action that result from personnel investigations vary depending on the nature of the allegations and the behavior that took place.
“Sexual harassment is a behavior that goes against the mission and values of the institution and against our belief that people should be treated with dignity and respect,” Smith said. “It goes against who we are as an institution and that’s why the behavior won’t be tolerated.”
Champouillon’s termination hearing has yet to be scheduled, his attorney said. He is not allowed to be on ETSU property without prior permission, according to university records.
Champouillon is not charged with any crime in connection to this investigation.