Texas A&M President Resigns After Failing To Hire Black Scholar To Lead The Journalism Department
Texas A&M has been feeling the heat since announcing its plans to revive its journalism department through the hiring of former New York Times editor and veteran journalist Dr. Kathleen McElroy. Now, the university’s president, Katherine Banks, has resigned due to her involvement in the failed hiring.
On June 13, Texas A&M made a formal announcement introducing McElroy to faculty and students as the newest director of their then-defunct journalism department. “A veteran journalist with more than 40 years of experience has been hired to direct Texas A&M University’s new journalism program”, the statement read.
The department as well as the degree were shut down over two decades ago, and McElroy’s hiring seemed to signal a bright new future for interested scholars. “There is so much trust in A&M and the Aggie core values, and we want to position the planned new journalism degrees and program as an integral part of the Aggie brand,” McElroy said at the time.
However, the news soon turned sour as details of McElroy’s contract were changed due to her being a Black woman as well as her focus “on race and its intersection with journalism in her Ph.D. program at UT Austin.”
According to Insight Higher Ed, José Luis Bermúdez, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, informed McElroy that her hiring had made “noise in the [university] system”. He went on to say “You’re a Black woman who worked at The New York Times,” which McElroy said prefaced the university’s decision to change its tenured position offer to a one-year, at-will contract; the latter of which she declined.
Both Bermudez and Banks issued separate statements announcing their respective resignations. “The recent challenges regarding Dr. [Kathleen] McElroy have made it clear to me that I must retire immediately,” Banks said in a letter to the faculty. “The negative press is a distraction from the wonderful work being done here.” Bermudez echoed her sentiments in a letter of his own saying, “I feel in the light of controversy surrounding recent communications with Dr. Kathleen McElroy that this is the best thing that I can do to preserve the great things that we have achieved over the last year in creating the College of Arts and Sciences at Texas A&M.”