The president of Texas A&M University resigned on Thursday amid the fallout from the botched hiring of a Black editor to run the school’s journalism program.
After publicly celebrating the hiring of former New York Times editor Kathleen McElroy with an official signing ceremony in June, the deal fell apart last week, with McElroy saying she felt “damaged by this entire process” and some faculty claiming race played a factor.
Here are four things to know about the controversy:
Texas A&M hires former New York Times editor to revive journalism program
Texas A&M announced in mid-June that McElroy, an alumna of the university, had been hired to run its newly revived journalism program.
McElroy’s recruitment was celebrated with much fanfare, with the head of the Department of Communication and Journalism describing her addition as a “huge step forward” for the program, according to a university press release.
The former Times editor — who was already a tenured professor at the University of Texas at Austin, where she had served as the head of its journalism school from 2018 to 2022 — was originally offered the Texas A&M position with the possibility of tenure.
McElroy walks away after backlash, shifting offers
McElroy decided to walk away from the position at Texas A&M last week after pushback emerged over her past work promoting diversity and the university watered down its offer several times, the Texas Tribune reported.
Amid the backlash from conservative circles, McElroy initially agreed to take a different offer for a five-year position without tenure.
However, she told the Tribune that the interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, José Luis Bermúdez, warned her earlier this month that her hiring had “stirred up a hornet’s nest” and advised her to stay at UT-Austin.
Days later, McElroy received a revised offer for a one-year contract that could be terminated at any time, which she refused.
“This offer letter on Sunday really makes it clear that they don’t want me there,” she said, according to the Tribune. “But in no shape, form or fashion would I give up a tenured position at UT for a one-year contract that emphasizes that you can be let go at any point.”
Hart Blanton — the head of the Department of Communication and Journalism who previously described McElroy’s hiring as a “huge step forward” — alleged on Friday that race played a role in the shifting offers.
“The unusual level of scrutiny being given to the hiring of Dr. McElroy was acknowledged by one administrator to have been based, at least in part, on race,” Blanton said, according to the Tribune.
He also claimed that Texas A&M President M. Katherine Banks had “injected herself into the process atypically and early on” and that his signature was used on a revised version of McElroy’s offer without his consent.