OU Professor Resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations
NORMAN, Oklahoma - Dozens of people speaking against a former University of Oklahoma professor accused of sexual harassment have composed a letter standing by their stories.
About 30 people signed a statement Wednesday accusing John Scamehorn of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior while he had access to drama school events as a university donor. The 64-year-old has denied wrongdoing.
The letter also accuses the university of ignoring legitimate complaints because of Scamehorn's donor status. Scamehorn retired from the university as an engineering professor in 2007. He was a professor emeritus until severing ties with the university in 2016.
The university hasn't directly addressed the accusations against Scamehorn but says he's no longer involved with the drama school.
Norman police say they haven't received any reports from victims but are investigating allegations shared online.
Below is the letter written by the victims accusing Scamehorn of sexual harrassment:
“To Whom It May Concern:
We are writing in response to the accusations and allegations against John Scamehorn that have recently come to light. To one degree or another each of us have been exposed to and scared by the environment of perversion he created under the guise of educator and film producer.
Although these troubling facts are just now being revealed to the public, the fact is, Mr. Scamehorn has been preying on young women with impunity for years. We feel an obligation to tell our stories, not only to add context and legitimacy to the stories that have arisen in recent days, but also as support to those who have been hesitant, embarrassed and ashamed to come forward with their own stories. This letter is not easy to write, but we believe it is necessary to advocate a change in our artistic community.
Make no mistake; Mr. Scamehorn is a predator and the list of inappropriate, egregious, and possibly illegal activities of which he indulged is extensive. Among other things he exploited the aspirations of young actresses to feed on his twisted and perverse desires. We know this to be true because we are among his victims. Among other things, we have been subjected to sexual advances, strong and inappropriate innuendo, regaled with stories rife with sexual content, stalked and even coerced into taking embarrassing and compromising photos.
Young students entering a college environment believe their professors and other university personnel are there for the sole purpose of educating and nurturing students. Imagine our dismay and disgust when we discovered this not to be the case. In fact, we have reason to believe the University, OU’s Title IX office, and school of Drama administration share a degree of culpability in the case by ignoring legitimate complaints brought to the attention of those with the authority to take appropriate action. Mr. Scamehorn has donated considerable sums of money to the University, and in turn was provided nearly unfettered access to a “target rich” environment for deviants.
Some of us were never students at OU or OU’s Weitzenhoffer College of Fine Arts, but Mr. Scamehorn’s reprehensible activities were not confined to the university campus. Mr. Scamehorn’s influence and deviancy also spread to the Sooner Theatre of Norman, as well as OKC Film and Theatre communities. It was common knowledge within the local theatre/film community that he was a predator and to avoided when possible. However, he positioned himself as a major benefactor to local theatre organizations and local filmmakers to buy access to actresses of various ages.
We will all bear emotional scars from our experiences. We feel shame, disgust, and embarrassment for being victimized and to not have spoken out before now. We were coerced and intimidated into silence, but we are done with the silence. It is time for Mr. Scamehorn and the individuals in positions of authority who perpetuated this behavior to be held accountable.
We hope this letter will serve to not only underscore the legitimacy of complaints that have already surfaced, but to support and offer encouragement to others who have been victimized. Please note that if you come forward, you have a group of individuals who will champion you."
The university released the following statement in response to the open letter:
To the authors of the open letter regarding John Scamehorn, the University of Oklahoma acknowledges and deeply regrets the unacceptable situation in which you were placed. There is nothing more important than the welfare and safety of our students.
In late January 2016, a member of your group came forward and discussed her concerns directly with the Dean of the College of Fine Arts, Mary Margaret Holt. The Dean acted immediately. A report was made to the university’s Institutional Equity Office and an administrative inquiry immediately began. By early February, a number of students had been interviewed; a disturbing and consistent picture emerged. In connection with university administration, the Institutional Equity Office engaged Dr. Scamehorn on February 12, 2016, to notify him of the allegations and set up an interview. He resigned immediately and dissociated from the College of Fine Arts and the Theatre Guild. He was barred from future paid or unpaid work with the university. His donor status was terminated, and contributions returned. Further, the university was proactive in informing law enforcement about our concerns and in sharing the information we acquired with other community organizations. In short, the University’s actions were immediate and intended to further our number one goal, the welfare and safety of our students. Additional review of Dr. Scamehorn’s title as emeritus faculty is underway.
In the past few days, accounts of Dr. Scamehorn’s past university involvement have resurfaced, and additional concerning allegations have also emerged. While much of the alleged misconduct occurred on the sets of private film productions and outside the university’s purview, we are concerned about and prepared to address your statement that reports to university personnel went unanswered or that you felt compelled to stay silent. That should not happen, and your allegations are being investigated.
Your stories have highlighted that there may be gaps in our reporting and response, and we are actively investigating to ensure that will not happen in the future. We will always strive to do better. If you have been the victim of harassment, discrimination or retaliation, the university has available resources to assist you. OU Advocates (405) 615-0013 is a confidential resource, and its staff can assist victims in several ways.? Additionally, the university’s Institutional Equity Office (405) 325-2215 investigates allegations of sexual misconduct, and the university maintains a 24/7 confidential, anonymous reporting hotline, which may be accessed by phone at (844) 428-6531 or?online (www.ou.ethicspoint.com). Thank you for sharing your experiences with us in furtherance of the collective goal of creating and maintaining a safe learning environment.
News 9 spoke with someone who signed the letter.
“I feel like a lot of time mouths are kept quiet by money and power and that’s not going to happen anymore,” the person said.
News 9 reached out to Scamehorn, but did not hear back before this report.
News 9 requested any and all reports made to the University of Oklahoma administration and OUPD related to Scamehorn.
The following is information regarding allegations against Scamehorn from Norman Police:
“A detective with our Criminal Investigations Division is continuing to review information that has been brought forward regarding the allegations. Based on the information that has been made available to our agency, primarily third party, no indication of a criminal violation exists. However, the review of information is ongoing. We continue to ask victims or anyone with information pertaining to the allegations to contact NPD Detective Ron Collett at 405-366-5219.”