While the OU Board of Regents met in executive session this morning, two accusers at the center of sexual misconduct investigations into former President David Boren and former Vice President Tripp Hall called for the university to release its internal report and review its Title IX Office.
Feet from where regents were meeting, Jess Eddy and Levi Hilliard conducted a brief press conference to explain what they believe are issues with OU’s federally mandated office for the review of campus sexual misconduct.
“As I’ve said before, I reported what happened to me — immediately after it happened — to my immediate supervisor and followed up several times in the ensuing days, but no Title IX report was ever done,” Hilliard said. “I was never contacted, and Title IX made no effort to reach out to me until all this time later.”
Hilliard said he has subsequently filed a Title IX report but declined to discuss the details of that ongoing investigation. In March, Hilliard told NonDoc that Hall, a vice president for university development, had touched him inappropriately on multiple occasions.
“We are demanding that the Board of Regents review the policies and procedures of the OU Title IX Office that obviously failed in my situation and possibly so many others,” Hilliard said Friday. “The university can no longer value the careers and reputations of the powerful few over the safety, dignity and lives of students, faculty and employees.”
Earlier this week, Hilliard told NonDoc that he followed up three consecutive days with his University Club supervisor about what happened during a Feb. 17, 2018, event he worked at the Sam Noble Museum. A bartender, Hilliard said an “obviously” intoxicated Hall approached him, drank from a bottle of wine, walked behind the bar and hugged Hilliard’s female coworkers.
“Then he came up to me and he leans in for a kiss, so I kind of start leaning away,” Hilliard said in March. “And it was at that point that he used his right hand to grab the side of my head, and with his left hand he was grabbing my shirt on my left arm, and he pulled me in and kissed me on the neck. He said, ‘Yeah, that’s the stuff,’ and then he walked away.’”
Reached by phone in March, Hall said he had never been involved romantically with an OU student or staff member, and he called such allegations “ridiculous.”
In April, NonDoc learned the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is looking into at least one other allegation against Hall. The OSBI began its investigation into Boren and Hall in late March and has multiple agents looking into the allegations of Eddy, Hilliard and others.
About six hours after their meeting began Friday, the board adjourned with chairwoman Leslie Rainbolt-Forbes reading a lengthy statement:
This was an informational meeting where we had the opportunity to bring our recently appointed regents up to speed on legal and personnel matters important to the university.
As I’ve noted before, we cannot comment on any specifics relative to ongoing personnel or legal matters.
That said, let me reiterate, the regents remain committed to a detailed and deliberate process to resolve these matters. I want to emphasize that both the university and the regents continue to act in accordance with Title IX and respect the privacy of complainants and witnesses. Privacy is important to our students and employees as a way to come forward safely without any retaliation. We’ve complied with the law, and we will continue to do so. We recognize our obligations to our university and the state. We are working hard to face these challenges respectfully, responsibly and in compliance with the law. And I want to reaffirm for all of you that we are absolutely and stringently committed to doing the right thing.
Eddy demands ‘immediate address’ of Title IX Office
Flanked by Hilliard and victims’ advocate Sara Bana, Eddy also spoke Friday about OU’s Title IX Office. He referenced past campus scandals involving alleged sexual misconduct from OU School of Drama faculty.
“I too demand the immediate address of the Title IX Office and revision of its structure, policies and practices,” Eddy said. “This office has disregarded my well-being and numerous others in their attempts to protect David Boren, Tripp Hall, John Scamehorn, Tom Orr and other serial offenders instead of the students, instead of the victims.”
An emeritus faculty member at the time, Scamehorn was accused in 2018 of sexually harassing female students over a period of years. In one instance reported by The Norman Transcript, Scamehorn proposed a sexually-themed fundraiser for the drama school.
“My idea is to fix my house as the Playboy mansion,” Scamehorn wrote in a 2011 email obtained by The Transcript. “I could play Hugh Hefner and wear the robe and smoke the pipe. Student actresses from Musical Theatre and Drama could dress up as Playboy bunnies and roam around the house cultivating the male attendees, encouraging them to contribute money. Maybe I have too much time on my hands to come up with such brilliant ideas.”
A former School of Drama employee expressed concerns about Scamehorn’s idea to Orr, then the school’s director. Orr was ultimately stripped of his directorship but remains a faculty member, despite multiple Title IX complaints being filed against him.
After a separate string of emails concerning allegedly inappropriate behavior by Scamehorn, Orr wrote him directly.
“I have no intention of embarrassing you or punishing you. I just need this distance for us to reboot your image,” Orr wrote, according to the Transcript. “Relax. We can meet next week to discuss ideas of how you can help. Thanks.”
Multiple people connected to the School of Drama were interviewed by media and said they believed students were discouraged from seeking recourse.
Friday, Eddy told a similar story.
“In my engagements with Title IX in the past [I received] pressure to not file a formal complaint,” Eddy said. “The Title IX officer reminds them he works for the university at large and that the process of a Title IX investigation is not something that will necessarily generate the justice that most victims of violence seek.”
Eddy argued that regents should review questions about the Title IX Office’s independence.
“A working relationship has existed between the Title IX Office and the Office of Legal Counsel that is nothing less than a gross conflict of interest,” Eddy said. “Contrary to the institutional structure and mission of the offices, they have wrongfully worked closely and truly perverted what should have been the university’s safe space for victims.”
Brookey: ‘If you don’t know about it, you can’t investigate it’
Prior to Eddy and Hillard’s remarks Friday, OU Vice President for Marketing and Communications Lauren Brookey said the regents “are going back to see what they need to look into” as a result of the investigation by Jones Day, an international law firm. Hilliard says Jones Day investigators never reached out to him, even after his story became public in late March.
“I think it’s more about who said what when. I don’t think there’s any concern that the process didn’t work or the office didn’t work,” Brookey said. “Based on what they learn, they go back and open things. But if you don’t know about it, you can’t investigate it.”
One thing regents do know is that Eddy says David Boren’s attorney, Clark Brewster, somehow obtained and provided him a Title IX incident report dated Nov. 8, 2018. Eddy handed media copies of the report outside of the OU board’s April 9 meeting.
The report detailed a 2017 conversation Eddy said he had with his then-supervisor at OU. Eddy said he told his story to the woman as a way to help her understand university power dynamics, not in the hope she would report to Title IX as prescribed by federal law.
During his first interview with Jones Day on Feb. 13, Eddy denied the allegations listed in the report, saying afterward that he was not even told a Title IX report had been filed on his behalf. Hours after Eddy’s Feb. 13 interview, The Oklahoman published a story with no named sources reporting that Boren was being investigated for alleged sexual misconduct.
Weeks later, Eddy says Brewster provided him a copy of the Title IX report and asked for a letter saying it was false. Eddy says he was conflicted about whether to admit he lied to Jones Day investigators, so he sent Brewster a brief letter. Days later, he called, confronted and asked for compensation from Boren. He said Boren denied anything inappropriate had happened between them.
About 48 hours later, he approached NonDoc and said he believes other victims exist and that he feared his actions might have jeopardized the opportunity for them to receive justice. He alleged an inappropriate situation in a Houston hotel room with Boren in November 2010 and said Hall touched his groin area and genitals in the back of an SUV the following morning. He also said Boren, a former governor and U.S. senator, kissed his neck and touched his butt on multiple occasions in the subsequent two years.
Friday, Eddy re-emphasized his concerns that Brewster had obtained the Title IX report when no one had told him about it.
“When informed of the possibility of the presence of a victim of sexual misconduct, (mandatory reporting rules say) to address the victim directly and immediately and in close proximity to the time of receipt of that information,” Eddy said. “Mandatory reporting was, and I believe continues to be, something that is not held or taken seriously at OU.”
Asked if regents or OU administrators were concerned with how Boren’s attorney obtained the Title IX report, Brookey, “You’d have to talk to him.”
A message to Brewster seeking comment was not returned before the publication of this story. He has said previously that Boren did not behave inappropriately as president of the university.
“All I can say is there was a process, and if the process wasn’t followed, that would be revealed in the investigation,” Brookey said of Hilliard’s incidents.
Who gets to review the Jones Day report?
Eddy and Bana also expressed concern about a report in The Oklahoman that Boren and his attorneys were reviewing the Jones Day report.
“We demand the report now,” Bana said. “The victims have as much a right to that report as David Boren or Tripp Hall.”
Asked Thursday if he felt members of the Oklahoma Legislature should be able to review the high-priced Jones Day report, Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-OKC) said he needs “to look at the legalities of that.”
“If it’s an ongoing investigation, does it compromise the ongoing investigation to get it out to too many eyes?” Treat asked. “Obviously as the Legislature, we are keenly interested in what’s going on at the University of Oklahoma.”
Treat said he met Thursday with Gary Pierson, the latest nominee to the OU Board of Regents who has not been confirmed by the Senate. Pierson was in attendance for Friday’s meeting.
While leaving the room, Rainbolt-Forbes was asked if the regents had turned over the Jones Day report to OSBI.
“I would have to check with our legal counsel,” she said.