University of Oklahoma returns retired professor’s donations
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The University of Oklahoma has returned donations made by a retired professor accused of sexual harassment and banned him from working on campus more than two years after the school first investigated him.
The university announced the moves Thursday, a day after about 30 people signed a statement accusing John Scamehorn of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior while he had access to drama school events as a university donor. Among other things, they accused him of making sexual advances, stalking and coercing them into embarrassing photographs. They said their complaints were ignored by the university.
Scamehorn, a 64-year-old former engineering professor, has denied the accusations. The school is also reviewing his status as a professor emeritus, an honorary title given to him following his 2007 retirement.
The university said the allegations were first made to the dean of the College of Fine Arts in January 2016, and were reported to the university’s Institutional Equity Office. The school said an investigation began immediately and, by early February, “a number of students had been interviewed; a disturbing and consistent picture emerged.”
Scamehorn was quickly notified and ended his association with the College of Fine Arts and the Theatre Guild, according to the school.
The university said it was concerned that some accusers reported that their complaints went unheard.
“Your allegations are being investigated,” the university said. “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.”
The school said it reported the allegations to law enforcement, though the school’s statement didn’t specify when it reported the incidents or which law enforcement agency was involved. Campus police didn’t respond to messages left Friday by The Associated Press, and a university spokeswoman didn’t return multiple messages and emails seeking clarification.
Norman police said they first heard of the allegations through social media this week and started an investigation. Spokeswoman Sarah Jensen said investigators have interviewed third-party witnesses and turned up no criminal wrongdoing so far, but that the investigation is ongoing.
The accusers said in their Wednesday statement that Scamehorn subjected them to “sexual advances, strong and inappropriate innuendo, regaled with stories rife with sexual content and even coerced into taking embarrassing and compromising photos.” The letter contains the names of predominantly female accusers who were or still are university students.
They said his actions also spread to the film and theater community in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City police Capt. Bo Mathews said Friday that there was no indication Scamehorn was under investigation by the department.
The accusations first surfaced online after Scamehorn promoted his short science-fiction film on a blog for “heterosexual, masculine men.” The film depicts a future where women are hunted down and killed for resisting a male-dominated society.