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Former OU Drama director Tom Orr had "no intention of punishing" John Scamehorn for indiscretions, emails reveal

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John Scamehorn

John Scamehorn

Emails obtained by The Daily reveal that former School of Drama director and professor Tom Orr knew of former School of Drama donor John Scamehorn’s “indiscretions” as early as 2012, but had no intention of punishing Scamehorn.

The Daily obtained emails from OU’s Open Records Office between Scamehorn and Orr from 2010 to 2016, both of whom have been accused of sexual harassment, in which the two discuss problems members of the school were having with Scamehorn’s behavior.

Scamehorn was accused of sexual harassment by former drama students in June, with one student discovering thousands of images of students Scamehorn had photoshopped onto torture porn images. This summer, multiple former students wrote lengthy Facebook posts detailing their experiences with Scamehorn and accusing Orr of being aware of Scamehorn’s behavior but allowing him to stay involved with the students anyway.

OU’s Title IX office conducted an investigation into these accusations over the summer, concluding that no wrongdoing was found.

On July 25, 2012, Scamehorn sent an email to Orr thanking him for his honesty about Scamehorn’s behavior and asking Orr to be a “monitor” if needed. The emails refer to Scamehorn being removed from productions in the Lab Theatre, a theatre in Old Science Hall, for reasons not clear in the emails.

“I know you could have cut me off from contact with the students entirely and appreciate your flexibility,” Scamehorn said in the email. “I hope to repair things and get back to the way it was within a few years as memories of my indiscretions fade.”

A day later, Scamehorn asked Orr if he could have specifications on what he was and wasn’t allowed to do. He said he was dedicated to their agreement and did not want to accidentally violate it. Scamehorn asked Orr if they could meet in person to clarify their agreement.

It is unclear what indiscretions Scamehorn was referring to or what agreement was reached by the two men, and any response from Orr to these emails was not given to The Daily. On July 31, 2012, Scamehorn emailed Orr with a potential Facebook post he wanted to make asking for forgiveness.

“I don't think you should put yourself in a position to be forgiven for anything,” Orr said in response Aug. 1. “I think you change things over time with new actions.”

Scamehorn replied saying he wanted to “put the whole thing behind him” and said he hoped others involved with Lab Theatre were not “made privy to any” of his indiscretions, referred to in a previous email.

Orr replied saying he had not made anyone else aware of the indiscretions. Orr said those who knew Scamehorn was removed from Lab Theatre productions did not know why and still saw him as a generous donor who wanted to help.

“I have no intention of embarrassing you or punishing you,” Orr said in the email. “I just need this distance for us to reboot your image. Relax. We can meet next week to discuss ideas of how you can help.”

Two years later, on Aug. 18, 2014, Scamehorn told Orr in an email that he was worried Orr’s “message” might scare students away from Scamehorn. It is not clear what message Scamehorn was referring to.

Scamehorn said in the email he had only had negative experiences with two students and that he did not want students to get the wrong impression.

"Even though my interaction has been positive with all of the 20 or 30 students or alums I have worked with and only two not good, I don’t want the impression that I am vindictive and if you get cross with me, I will ruin you,” Scamehorn wrote in the email.  

The Daily did not receive an email reply from Orr in response to this.

One year later on Aug. 24, 2015, Scamehorn asked Orr not to bring up the “slander” against him in the School of Drama “bull session,” which is a meeting the administration of the school often holds with the student body. Scamehorn said it would be the second year in a row he was mentioned negatively in a bull session and did not want it to affect his reputation.

Twelve days after a bull session was held on Feb. 5, 2016 that referenced allegations but did not mention Scamehorn’s name, Scamehorn sent an email to Orr asking if he could get in touch with students that had been working on his film Pax Masculina. This also was five days after the university severed ties with Scamehorn in a Title IX meeting in which Scamehorn resigned to avoid an investigation by the university into allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

If a reply from Orr was sent, The Daily did not receive it.

Scamehorn’s film is set in a world in which women were never given the right to vote and women are brutally hanged for attempting to rebel against the patriarchy. Many actresses on the film felt uncomfortable because they felt the story focused on Scamehorn’s “fetish” of women being hanged, adjunct drama professor Daryl Cox told The Daily in June.

Later that year, Scamehorn emailed Orr and copied Mary Margaret Holt, dean of the Weitzenhoffer College of Fine Arts, with the link to his film’s trailer.

The Daily requested emails between Orr and Scamehorn from 2010 to 2016 on June 9, 2018 and the request was fulfilled with 48 emails Oct. 30 at 2:24 p.m. The Daily has reached out to Orr and Title IX Coordinator Bobby Mason regarding the emails, both of which did not respond by the time of publication.

Jana Allen is a journalism junior and the Daily's enterprise reporter. She was formerly a news reporter, and held several editor positions on the news desk before transitioning to enterprise.

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