NORMAN, Okla. - Former students and members of the film community have composed an open letter in the wake of accusations of inappropriate behavior against a resigned Oklahoma professor.
The letter comes amid accusations and allegations against Dr. John Scamehorn, a resigned University of Oklahoma professor, caught in the middle of a social media firestorm.
"It is a statement for the news, for the University of Oklahoma, for any other women or men who choose to speak out, anybody in the film industry," said Gabrielle Reyes, an OU alumna who was among 30 people who signed the letter.
Several former students and film industry members, many of whom have asked to remain anonymous, have taken to social media accusing Scamehorn of inappropriate behavior in situations where they felt extreme uncomfortable.
"He told me about the disgusting details of him buying prostitutes and how he liked Thai women because they were 'so obedient,'” one post read.
Another post accused Scamehorn having photos "taken through his front window of young girls walking to and from school, and additional photos through the same window of him standing on the sidewalk with his dogs, talking to the children walking home, each individually labeled with the name of his street and a description of the girl."
Part of the open letter, which also made its rounds through social media, reads "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 his twisted and perverse desires."
The letter also suggests they were subject to "sexual advances, strong and innuendo, regaled with stories rife with sexual content, stalked and even coerced into taking embarrassing and compromising photos."
Reyes, who has since moved out of Oklahoma, told News 4 in a Skype interview Thursday that Scamehorn often took photos of her classmates, which was later found to be compromised and made to look as though they were being tortured.
"It was just pictures of every single woman in the fine arts department, not just acting but also musical theatre. I don’t know if there were any dancers, but I know for sure every single actress," Reyes said. "There was one photo I remember specifically seeing where there was a photoshopped dog’s cone head on one of the women in an apartment and her mouth was open, like a goofy face."
Reyes said she knows of students who have filed complaints against Scamehorn but they claim little to no action was taken.
"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," a portion of the letter reads.
In a statement in response to the open letter, OU said:
"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 pictured 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 Theater 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."
Scamehorn also released the following to News 4:
"I am aware of the rumors and allegations made against me online and in local media reports. In the strongest terms possible, I deny any wrongdoing."
Sarah Jensen, a public information officer for the Norman Police Department, told News 4 no victims of a criminal violation have come forward as of Thursday.
"A detective with our Criminal Investigations Division is continuing to review information that has been brought forward regarding the allegations," Jensen said. "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."