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Alleged sexual misconduct by OU's David Boren, Tripp Hall didn't prompt immediate Title IX inquiry, accusers say

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Jess Eddy

OU graduate and former employee Jess Eddy talks to a reporter at The Earth on March 31.

Two OU graduates who say they described alleged sexual misconduct committed by administrators to mandatory reporters told The Daily they were never contacted by Title IX for an investigation prior to their story becoming public last week. 

Jess Eddy, a former OU employee and teacher’s aide to former OU President David Boren, says Boren made unwanted sexual advances against him on multiple instances between 2010 and 2012. Eddy also alleges that Tripp Hall, former vice president of University Development, groped him in 2010. 

Eddy’s allegations come in conjunction with allegations from Levi Hilliard, a 2017 OU graduate and current University Club employee, who says that Hall inappropriately and non-consensually touched and kissed him on multiple occasions through 2017 and 2018. 

Eddy and Hilliard’s allegations were first reported March 26 by NonDoc, and Boren and Hall have both denied any wrongdoing. Boren and Hall also declined to comment on the situation when approached by The Daily on March 28, and the university has repeatedly declined to specifically comment on the issue because the investigation is ongoing.

Hall and Boren are currently the subject of a university investigation headed by law firm Jones Day, as well as an investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. According to university spokesperson Lauren Brookey, the Jones Day investigation began in November 2018. 

Eddy told The Daily in a March 31 interview that a Title IX report concerning his allegations was filed in November 2018, but that he has never reported his interactions with Boren directly to the Title IX office. 

Eddy was questioned by Jones Day for the investigation in February 2019 based on the allegations in the 2018 Title IX report. 

The investigation would unearth memories Eddy had tried to put behind him after almost 10 years of recovery from the alleged interactions with Boren and their aftermath. It would also place Eddy and Hilliard, two recent OU graduates and employees, at the center of allegations against one of the most powerful men in Oklahoma history — a former governor, senator and university president  — and one of his closest political and personal allies.   

‘I’m at the center of this. I didn’t even, I didn’t file a complaint.’

When Jones Day called Eddy in to speak about his allegations against Boren in February, Eddy said he had no concept of what Jones Day was investigating, and did not know he was about to relive events that he says happened almost 10 years ago. 

After his first Jones Day interview, Eddy said he received a copy of a Title IX report detailing his alleged experiences with Boren from 2010 onward — his allegations of unwanted advances and touches from Boren — and was asked to confirm its validity. Eddy did not file the report and was unaware it existed until that point, and said he denied its contents to Jones Day investigators out of fear of retaliation by Boren or OU. 

“You know, Boren’s going to be like, ‘God, he can’t keep his mouth closed,’” Eddy said. “‘He needs to shut his damn mouth,’ and … I’m afraid. I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’ You know what I mean? Like I’m at the center of this. I didn’t even, I didn’t file a complaint.”

Eddy said he believes the report was filed by Belinda Biscoe, senior associate vice president of university outreach, in November 2018. If Eddy’s allegation is true, the report came after months of personal and professional dispute between Biscoe and Eddy when they worked together from July 2017 to March 2018. 

Eddy said he told Biscoe the details of Boren’s alleged misconduct in 2017 in a private conversation he never meant to be shared, and Biscoe was the only current university administrator who knew of Eddy’s story. 

While Biscoe is a mandatory reporter under OU’s Title IX system, more than a year passed between the time Eddy said he told her about his alleged interactions with Boren, and the November 2018 Title IX report. 

In that year, what Eddy said had once been a friendship between himself and Biscoe turned into disagreements about Eddy’s position within Biscoe’s department, ending with Eddy transfering to a different OU department.

The Daily has reached out to Biscoe once at her office number, twice at her landline  and twice at her cell number, since March 28 to discuss Eddy’s allegations, but has not heard back. 

After initially denying to Jones Day that Boren had ever acted inappropriately toward him, Eddy wrote a letter for Clark Brewster, one of Boren’s attorneys, March 14 stating that Boren never touched him inappropriately.

Eddy said leading up to the Jones Day investigation, he had compartmentalized most of what he says happened between him and Boren, but suddenly, the trauma of the situation was fresh in his life again. In the time after the alleged 2010 events, Eddy was arrested for disturbing the peace, DUI, vandalizing a police car and public intoxication during Norman Music Fest in 2011, NonDoc reported.

This time, he said his mental and physical health again began to decline, and three days after Eddy wrote the letter, he called Boren to confront him about the alleged sexual harassment. 

Eddy said he asked Boren for compensation, as his mental and emotional state had made him unable to work and he did not have medical insurance for therapy. Boren denied the request, Eddy said, allegedly telling him that any payment would be an admission of guilt on Boren’s part, and denying that anything inappropriate had ever happened between himself and Eddy.

Since then, Eddy said he and his civil advocate and case manager, Sara Bana, went to the Norman Police Department March 25 and then to Jones Day to tell “the truth” about what happened to him and what he said he knows happened to others.

“He had been a victim of some serious patterns of unethical, illegal behavior,” Bana said. “I wasn’t comfortable with the way that Jones Day was doing this secret investigation. They don’t technically have a duty to report any crimes they come across; (Jones Day) would report that to the university and the university would choose whether the truth would come out or not.”

A NPD spokesperson has since said that the allegations Eddy brought to the NPD are outside of its jurisdiction, and referred them to the OU Police Department. OU announced March 28 that Eddy’s allegations against Boren and Hall would be investigated by the OSBI.

“The public oversight, the police — that puts pressure on Jones Day to do a proper investigation,” Eddy said. “I have no faith that they will.”

‘I was afraid every single day going into work.’

After Hilliard said he experienced inappropriate touching by Hall, he alerted his supervisor at the University Club, who told him that he would discuss the incident with Hilliard, but never followed up. 

Hilliard said Hall first touched him on the buttocks a few times in February 2017. A year later, he said Hall forcibly kissed him on the neck during a 2018 event at the Sam Noble Museum. 

Hilliard said he alerted his supervisors to what happened, but after telling him they would talk about the issue later at work, they never did, and never told Hilliard if they were reporting the incident. Hilliard said he was only contacted by Title IX after the NonDoc story came out detailing his allegations.

“I can’t comment on my supervisor’s state of mind at the time, or the underlying conditions that may have prevented him from resolving the ongoing issue,” Hilliard told The Daily in an email.

Bobby Mason, OU’s Title IX coordinator, told The Daily via email that if a mandatory report is made, the first step would be for the Sexual Misconduct Officer to review the report and reach out to the individual on the receiving end of the discrimination or harassment.

“It would be rare for a reach out to not be sent in response to a mandatory report,” Mason said of Title IX cases in general. “If a report was received that is not actionable under our (sexual misconduct, discrimination and harassment policy) but would be better addressed as an employment, conduct, or educational issue, we may refer the case to either HR, (Equal Opportunity), Academic Affairs, or Student Conduct.”

Hilliard’s current supervisors at the University Club declined to answer The Daily’s questions about whether they made a report to Title IX, saying they have been advised not to speak with reporters about the issue while the Jones Day investigation is ongoing. It is unclear if Hilliard’s supervisors pursued steps beyond Title IX.

In a third incident in 2018, Hilliard said Hall grabbed his buttocks and kissed his neck while he was working at an OU football game. At the time of these incidents, Hall served on the Board of Trustees for the University Club, according to NonDoc.

Hall was terminated Nov. 1 by OU President James Gallogly soon after an investigation by Jones Day found misreporting of numbers in the development department. Hall has declined to comment to The Daily, but told NonDoc there was no reason anyone would accuse him of inappropriate touching.

“Before (Hall’s) termination, I was afraid every single day going into work,” Hilliard told The Daily. “If I saw that he had a reservation on a certain day, my heart would sink into the pit of my stomach.”

Hilliard and Eddy have both said it has been a difficult time to relive their experiences publicly. Though it has required courage to come out with his story, Eddy said sharing his truth has been somewhat cathartic.

“(This past week) has just been, you know, at times nightmarish,” Eddy said. “Truthfully, though, I have my moments of great fear and distress, since everything’s gone public. I feel better that I’m telling the truth, you know, it’s just something about it that ... I’ve never experienced in my life, that it gives me the strength to kind of stand on.”

Jana Allen contributed to this report.

news managing editor

Jordan Miller is a journalism and political science junior serving as The Daily's news managing editor. Previously she served as The Daily's spring 2019 news editor, fall 2018 assistant visual editor and was an SGA beat reporter.

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