OU Board of Regents revokes emeritus status of former professor

OKLAHOMA CITY - University regents have revoked all honorary titles of a former professor amid accusations of inappropriate behavior from former students.

At the University of Oklahoma's Board of Regents meeting Tuesday, university officials considered the "formal revocation of all honorary titles, awards or status, including but not limited to Professor Emeritus, with the University and any of its affiliates" of Dr. John Scamehorn.

"That’s one of the things I specifically instructed be put on this agenda," said incoming OU president Jim Gallogly. "That is not appropriate that individual have that title, and we revoked it."

Scamehorn resigned from OU in 2016 after university officials confirmed a student came forward and discussed concerns with OU's Dean of the College of Fine Arts, Mary Margaret Holt. A number of students were interviewed before a "disturbing and consistent" picture emerged, according to OU officials.

"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," a statement from OU read. "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."

"I’ve also heard some reports that perhaps people in the past did not properly report to the extent that’s the case, we will investigate it and we will take action," Gallogly said. "In our university, we do those things right. We have a duty and an obligation to report things, and then we take action on things that we learn."

Recently, the allegations resurfaced after former students posted their experiences with Scamehorn on social media including an open letter signed by 30 people.

Part of the letter 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."

The letter goes on to accuse OU of ignoring legitimate complaints. News 4 questioned why the university did not consider Scamehorn's honorary titles until two years after the allegations first emerged.

"I have no idea, but I can tell you, as soon as I learned about it, I gave instructions to have that revoked," Gallogly answered Tuesday. "We have to get this right every time. In this instance, I don’t know if we fell short but it will be investigated."

Amid the allegations, Scamehorn told News 4 in the past, "in the strongest terms possible, I deny any wrongdoing.”

When asked for a comment Tuesday, he told us, "Upon consultation, my attorneys have advised me to not comment on this action."

Gallogly said, overall, the process of revoking a professor of emeritus status is rare.