After a failed attempt to employ a notable Black professor to head the institution’s journalism programme, Texas A&M institution said on Thursday that senior university administrators had made “significant mistakes” out of fear of criticism from conservatives. The settlement with Professor Kathleen McElroy was reported to be for $1 million.
University officials had pushed to delay Dr. McElroy’s hiring until after the state legislative session adjourned, out of fear of a possible backlash from conservative lawmakers, according to a report by the university’s general counsel that sheds an unfavourable light on the behind-the-scenes discussions over his hiring. Then, after hearing regents’ concerns about her hire, they altered her contract.
According to the university’s assessment, what had been offered as a full professor job with tenure was ultimately reduced to a one-year appointment with no tenure.
Less than a month after Texas A&M had arranged a public signing ceremony to welcome her, replete with balloons, Dr. McElroy, who had directed the journalism programme at the University of Texas and was once an editor at The New York Times, declared in July that she would not accept the post.
Dr. McElroy claimed in a recent interview that conservatives in the state had concerns about her hire, which led to a weakening of the conditions of her position.
Following Dr. McElroy’s public criticism of the university’s handling of her hiring and her subsequent decision to return to the University of Texas, both M. Katherine Banks, the university’s president, and José Luis Bermdez, the interim dean presiding over the liberal arts, resigned from their respective positions.
The case brought to light the heated debate between conservative politicians and academia on racial problems. And it was quite similar to the uproar that occurred two years ago at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when it was proposed to recruit Nikole Hannah-Jones, a writer for The New York Times Magazine and the author of the 1619 Project, a history of the roots of slavery in the United States.
The Rudder Association, a group of conservative alums at Texas A&M, was among those who voiced opposition to Dr. McElroy’s employment, and they did so in part because of state intentions to end university programmes that promote racial fairness in Texas.
Texas’ Republican governor, Greg Abbott, recently signed legislation prohibiting “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (D.E.I.) programmes at state-funded institutions of higher education.
An article in a magazine called Texas Scorecard highlighted Dr. McElroy’s participation in D.E.I. activities and research, prompting objections from the Rudder Association.
Dr. McElroy has acknowledged that D.E.I. had just a minor role in her research.
The school promised to form a committee to provide suggestions for enhancing the procedure.
Mark Welsh, Texas A&M’s interim president and a 1981 alumnus, apologised to Dr. McElroy at a press conference on Wednesday.
From what I’ve heard, Dr. McElroy is a very well-respected academic, as Mr. Welsh would attest. She’s a really skilled reporter. And from what I’ve heard, she’s a fantastic Aggie. I hope she realises how sad we are for what occurred.
The university announced the $1 million settlement with Dr. McElroy on Thursday, but they did not say where the money would come from.
Dr. McElroy released a statement in which she vowed her allegiance to her alma university despite the scandal.