Disturbing Issue of Sexual Harassment Raised at University of Oklahoma School of Drama

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Last week, former University of Oklahoma student, Chandler Corbeille released a statement on her Facebook page detailing disturbing incidents while interning for a former OU professor. 

Corbeille says that she met John Scamehorn, a professor emeritus in the OU School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering, during her sophomore year in 2012. She initially thought he worked for the drama department as their photographer, because he was constantly taking pictures at School of Drama events. However she found out later that he was in fact, a former professor turned prominent donors to the program. According to a report by The Norman Transcript, between 1986 and 2015, Scamehorn donated $115,500 to the OU college of fine arts. 

After she graduated, Corbeille returned to OU to work as an alum with their musical productions. She also was hired as a production assistant for Scamehorn on a film he was working on titled, "Pax Masculina", which featured students from the OU School of Drama.

However, within a few months of working for Scamehorn, he started to have disturbing conversations with her. 

"He would share with me details of his personal life, including annual trips to Thailand on behalf of the university’s chemical engineering department," Corbeille says. "He told me about the disgusting details of him buying prostitutes, and how he liked Thai women because they were “so obedient.” He also expressed his motivations for his involvement in the arts, stating at one point that he “made movies for revenge.”

The she started to notice that Scaehorn's behavior during working on the film. According to Corbeille, he would take home prop nooses from the set as keepsakes, ask for the hair extensions actresses used on the film, he made her runs lines with him from the torture scenes in the film. He also began to criticize her weight and relationships. 

The final straw for Corbeille came when she was cataloging footage for post-production and came across a folder in Scamehorn's hard drive. 

According to Corbeille's statement, 

"I discovered pictures 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. This was not the first time he had done it. I found pictures of these poor, innocent school girls spanning many different months, and even different years. My heart dropped, I was in a much stranger and scarier situation than I thought.

I later discovered thousands and thousands of pictures of girls from the Weitzenhoffer College of Fine Arts, each individually labeled, and almost all of them cropped to show only face and neck, or only legs. Most of the facial close-ups were of girls mid-sentence, laughing, or making a silly face with an open mouth, all faces similar to the ones made by a person being hung. Many of these photos were taken from these ladies Facebooks, or they were pictures that John took without your knowledge at OU School of Drama events."

Upon seeing these materials, Corbielle says she reached out to OU's Title IX office, OU Police as well as Norman Police. However, with the exception of a few faculty members who shared her concerns, according to Corbielle, "I was basically told that there was nothing that could be done and I made to feel by several people that I needed to brush this under the rug, or that I would be responsible for my department losing funding from their primary donor."

According to OU's Press Secretay Matt Epting, "Scamehorn retired from OU in 2007 and “formally severed any remaining employment status with the university” on Feb. 12, 2016(presumably due to Corbielle's reporting). As to Scamehorn’s status with the department, Epting said he “is no longer involved in any way with the school of drama.”

In the days following Corbielle's statement, numerous other women have come forward detailing their own interactions with Scamehorn. 

According to a report from the OU Daily, former student Brook Reynolds says Scamehorn once cornered her on the North Oval to ask her questions about the show "Spring Awakening" she had recently starred in involving nudity and depicting a rape scene. Scamehorn told her he thought the rape scene was “not violent enough” and asked the woman if her father came to see the show and how he felt about seeing her partially nude. The woman also said Scamehorn messaged her privately on Facebook sometime later and commented that she played “a perfect rape victim.”

“I was angry, and I was really sickened because it was clear that was something he got pleasure from watching,” the woman said. “That was not the purpose of the scene. It was such a perversion of everything about it, and the fact that he sent that to me in a private message at all was disgusting.”

According to a current staff member who wishes to remain anonymous, it's disturbing that Scamehorn was allowed access to women in the School of Drama despite complaints from students.  

“That he was allowed to have contact for so many years with so many young women is actually a bigger problem,” the staff member said. “It places money above the well-being of 18-to-22-year-old women, who are there to be educated and trained in their craft. They were told to shut up.”

Former student Gabrielle Reyes, who Scamehorn had allegedly also taken pictures of, said Tom Huston Orr, director of the school of drama, knew about students’ concerns with Scamehorn. OU said Scamehorn’s relationship with the school of drama was a personnel issue and, therefore, confidential.

In response to the news coming out of John Scamehorn's alleged behavior, he has withdrawn from a speaking engagement at the International Symposium on Surfactants in Solution hosted by OU in the Oklahoma Memorial Union.

In response to the allegations themselves, Scamehorn provided a statement to the Norman Transcript,

"I am aware of the rumors and allegations made against me online and in local media reports," Scamehorn said in an email response. "In the strongest terms possible, I deny any wrongdoing."

We will update this story with new information as it becomes provided. If anyone has any further information, please email us at onstageblog@gmail.com