Texas A&M president resigns over hiring controversy

Katherine Banks exits as fact-finding committee examines botched recruitment of Kathleen McElroy as director of journalism

七月 21, 2023
Albritton Bell Tower(Texas A&M U) in Twilight
Source: iStock

The president of Texas A&M University has resigned with immediate effect after the failed hiring of a new professor created national headlines.

Katherine Banks, who became the 26th president of the institution just two years ago, said the negative press surrounding a job offered to Kathleen McElroy had become a “distraction”.

Texas A&M initially announced the hiring of Professor McElroy, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, in June. She was given a five-year contract as director of journalism.

But after a conservative pushback over her support for diversity, equity and inclusion policies, and her previous role as an editor at The New York Times, the job offer quickly fell apart.

Professor McElroy told her former newspaper that the terms of her employment were watered down to a one-year contract, so she opted to decline the position and return to the Austin.

The criticisms of Professor McElroy come at a time when public universities in Texas are in the middle of eliminating offices of diversity, equity and inclusion to comply with recent state legislation.

Many commentators suggested that Professor McElroy, herself a graduate of Texas A&M, was the victim of “anti-woke” hysteria from the right-wing press and outside interference in the faculty hiring process.

On Wednesday, the Texas A&M faculty senate agreed to create a fact-finding committee into the issue.

At the meeting, Professor Banks denied knowing about the changes in the job offer but took responsibility for the flawed hiring process.

Her resignation follows that of José Luis Bermúdez, who stepped down as interim dean of the college of arts and sciences earlier in the week.

In her resignation letter, Professor Banks said it had been the “honour of a lifetime” to have the opportunity to serve at the university.

“The recent challenges regarding Dr McElroy have made it clear to me that I must retire immediately,” she wrote.

“The negative press is a distraction from the wonderful work being done here. I wish Texas A&M nothing but the best. It has been a privilege to serve under you.”

John Sharp, chancellor of Texas A&M, announced that Mark Welsh would serve as acting president before a national search began for a long-term successor.

Professor Welsh, a retired Air Force general, is the dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service.




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