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School of Drama professor Tom Orr placed on administrative leave following 'recent allegations'

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Tom Orr (copy)

School of Drama professor Tom Orr walks down stairs in the Old Science Hall on Sept. 14, 2018. 

Tom Orr, former director of OU’s Helmerich School of Drama and current performance professor, has been placed on administrative leave pending investigation in light of “recent allegations,” according to an OU spokesperson.

Though the nature of the new allegations against Orr are unknown, current School of Drama director Seth Gordon sent a message Sunday to students and faculty within the school explaining Orr would be on leave. Upon inquiry, OU spokesperson Kesha Keith said in an email the university was investigating allegations related to Orr.

In a separate message Gordon sent to School of Drama students, faculty and staff, he explained Orr had chosen to withdraw from directing an upcoming production due to an “increase in research and creative activity and health issues at home.” However, the message also said he would be continuing to be involved in the production in his capacity as a producer of the Lab Theatre.

Orr was previously investigated by OU’s Title IX office in the summer of 2018 after multiple accusations of sexual harassment by students. An OU Daily investigation found at least two School of Drama alumni filed sexual harassment complaints against Orr with the university’s Title IX office that resulted in no actions taken against him. 

Multiple other alumni who did not file Title IX complaints spoke with The Daily in 2018 about personal experiences with Orr inside and outside the classroom, saying his behavior was sexually charged and emotionally harmful.

“Due to the confidential nature of this personnel issue, this is the extent of the university’s comment at this time,” said Kesha Keith, OU director of media relations in an email Sunday night. “The university’s primary concern is the welfare of its students.”

Orr resigned from his post as the director of the School of Drama Aug. 16, 2018, after a Title IX investigation into the school’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against former professor emeritus and donor John Scamehorn.

Orr’s resignation was “in support of necessary changes within the school,” but he remained a “valued member of the faculty,” according to a statement released after Orr’s resignation by Mary Margaret Holt, dean of the Weitzenhoffer College of Fine Arts.

A professor within the School of Drama, who asked to remain unnamed, told The Daily in 2018 they had more than a dozen students come to them over the years with complaints of verbal sexual harassment from Orr.

The Daily attempted to contact Orr by phone and email Sunday night but did not receive a response by time of publication.

This post will be updated as more information becomes available. If you have any information you would like to provide to The Daily about this story confidentially, please use this form.

Correction: This post was updated at 9:16 p.m. Jan. 12 to reflect the correct quote from Gordon's message to students and faculty in the School of Drama. This post was also updated to clarify a separate message sent by Gordon at 9:30 a.m. Jan 13.

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.

Jana Hayes is a senior reporter on The Daily's news desk. She is a journalism senior and has worked at The Daily since her freshman year, having held several reporter and editor positions on both the news and enterprise desks.

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