Paycom yanks OU ads amid race tensions on campus
Paycom will pull advertisements at the University of Oklahoma in the wake of racial tensions on campus, and after "meaningless statements" on the controversy by the school's interim president.
Paycom's advertising spend on campus, including at athletic events, is in the six-figure range, a spokesman confirmed Friday. The decision will not affect marketing at Career Services, which helps students find jobs after graduation.
The Oklahoma City-based company provides human resource management software and tools for the workforce.
In a letter written to OU President Joseph Harroz and the Board of Regents, Paycom CEO Chad Richison lamented the university's response to two race-related controversies that rocked the campus in recent weeks.
In separate incidents, two faculty members used the N-word during class. The first incident occurred when a journalism professor used the word in comparison to the phrase, "OK, boomer," which is used to mock older generations.
The second involved a history professor who repeatedly said the word while reading a historical document.
"Your inaction to implement appropriate employment practices tells the world of your continued effort to sanction unacceptable behavior. This situation has escalated today because your previous diversity training efforts failed because they assured free speech protection," Richison wrote.
"Additionally, your assertion that derogatory and offensive statements are protected by free speech inaccurately signals to alumni, employers, faculty and others that a professor, administrator or regent has the authority to say racially motivated and offensive words on campus because you have advised and assured them they are protected."
Richison specifically stated that his decision isn't meant to reflect on the university as a whole, but rather on the leadership and its response that the school doesn't "make decisions in a vacuum or based on ultimatums."
"Let me be clear, the problem lies squarely with the members of the OU Board of Regents whose actions — or inactions — show their beliefs of racial injustice through meaningless statements through Interim President Harroz," he wrote.
More than 100 students staged a sit-in last month at OU's administrative offices and demanded the creation of a student advisory council to the office of Provost Kyle Harper and a review process for senior executive leadership.
The recent events exacerbated long-standing racial tensions at the university, while other incidents in recent memory include students wearing blackface and singing racist song lyrics on video.
Paycom is still in the process of evaluating how much and where it spends money at the university, and a precise monetary impact was not yet available.
"Our decision will remain in effect until the OU Board of Regents and the interim president take meaningful action to transform the current destructive culture you created by sanctioning this behavior with uncultured responses to one where everyone is respected and valued. It is time to replace words with deeds," Richison wrote.
"Those members of the OU Board of Regents who choose to hide behind free speech over deterring discrimination, and who cannot accept their past actions have not worked either, should resign or be outnumbered by the votes of the regents who stay."