The university did not renew Hinkle’s contract at the end of last semester, prompting an early retirement.
For more than two decades, Bill Hinkle was a fixture at the University of Tulsa, teaching popular advertising courses for the Department of Media Studies with a trademark no-nonsense attitude and a provocative, often crass sense of humor. No longer. This past August, just weeks before the beginning of the fall session, the administration declined to renew Hinkle’s contract, severing its relationship with him.
“They just told me I was done,” said Hinkle. “Based on something that supposedly happened at the Kappa Delta house seven months before.”
Last January, Hinkle was asked by members of the Kappa Delta sorority to give a presentation on public speaking and résumé building during the house’s chapter night. As he was setting up his computer and projector, Hinkle asked one of the women in the room to change the slides for him as he was speaking. He then opted for one of his typical jokes, a phrase familiar to students in his Principles of Advertising class.
“I said, laughingly, in jest, ‘In [class], I always refer to people who change the slides as my ‘video bitch.’”
According to Hinkle, this comment was met with laughter from the room, although we were unable to substantiate this claim. Lauren Rogers, a TU student and former member of Kappa Delta, recalled that she didn’t consider the moment to be “uncomfortable.”
Evidently, an unknown member or members of the house filed a letter of complaint with the school’s administration. Hinkle says that he was unaware that a report had been registered concerning his behavior until August, when he was called into a meeting with Senior Vice Provost Richard Redner and Dr. Kalpana Misra, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
At the meeting, Hinkle was purportedly thanked for his time and service to the school before being told of the letter that had been sent from the individual(s) in the Kappa Delta house. Redner then informed him that due to his behavior, his contract would not be given to the provost for approval, leading to his effective termination from the university.
It should be noted that all accounts of this meeting and the actions of Drs. Redner and Misra came from Hinkle himself. Sherry Eskew, Executive Director of Human Resources, declined to “comment further on personnel matters.”
Hinkle made his thoughts clear on the situation, claiming in a Facebook post that the University’s decision was akin to “a traffic court judge sentence[ing] me to the electric chair for making an illegal lane change.”
He added that he had never received any prior indication from the university that his demeanor and actions were frowned upon, and he denied having ever heard of a complaint being made against him before.
“I’ve said a lot worse in class and I’ve heard students say a lot worse in class. I hope nobody gets their feelings hurt. I mean, it was just so black-and-white and cold.”
Following his dismissal from TU, Hinkle received support from friends, family and students past and present. In addition to the nearly 200 comments on his Facebook post, Hinkle says that more than 600 people have reached out to him to express their condolences and indignation, sharing many of these records with The Collegian.
Rogers, who has known Hinkle since she was a child, described him as a “kind, generous person” and praised his guidance and mentorship as a teacher. When asked whether he had ever made any disparaging comments or made her feel uncomfortable, Rogers firmly denied it, recounting a time when Hinkle had chastised another man’s sexist comment toward her.
The Collegian reached out to several active members of Kappa Delta, but none were available for comment.
Regarding the future of the advertising program at TU, Hinkle offered a grim prognostication.
“There won’t be anybody who will ever take my place who will have the same passion for this that I do …. Nobody has the connections, passion, time, desire, because it’s not on their radar. They’re not thinking, ‘What can we do next?’”
The two courses Hinkle was scheduled to teach in the fall, Principles of Advertising and Media Concepts and Strategies, are being taught by Teresa Tackett and Bill Handy respectively. Both have Master’s degrees in Mass Communication from Oklahoma State University as well as professional experience in the field. Dr. Mark Brewin, chair of the Department of Media Studies, indicated “a very high level of confidence in the abilities of Mr. Handy and Ms. Tackett to teach the students in our department.”
Dr. Brewin added that his department would continue to offer all courses required for those graduating with majors or minors in advertising, though “a rethinking of the entire curriculum of the Department of Media Studies (formerly Communication) is currently underway.”
Hinkle, a graduate of the University of Tulsa, was inducted into its Communications Hall of Fame in 2017. He began teaching at TU in the early 1990s, when he was employed as the executive creative director of a local advertising firm. Finding that grads from his alma mater lacked the “real world” skills necessary to operate in the advertising industry, Hinkle contacted TU to pitch his services. He was hired for the start of the next academic term and planned to retire at the end of the Spring 2019 semester, which would have been his 25th year at the school.