COLLEGE STATION, TX — The flap over the mis-hiring of a liberal black female journalism professor who would kick start the Texas A&M University in College Station journalism department has claimed its biggest victim so far. Texas A&M President Kathy Banks submitted her resignation effective immediately to Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp Thursday night. Sharp named U.S. Air Force General (Ret.) Mark A. Welsh III as the interim president.
Under Banks’ leadership, Texas A&M revamped many of its individual colleges based upon a 2021 MGT Consulting study that recommended 41 major changes in how the university was organized. Among the recommendations was to restart the journalism department inside A&M’s College of Liberal Arts.
A&M hired University of Texas professor Dr. Kathleen McElroy as the dean who would re-install the journalism degree offering and department. That decision quickly drew fire from what the Texas Tribune labels as “outside organizations.”
The primary opponent of McElroy’s appointment were the members of The Rudder Association, a well-financed conservative activist group born out of the 2020 BLM riots era when a small group of liberal activists almost were successful in forcing A&M to remove the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross from the center of campus. Ross, who was president of A&M, also saved the institution in the 1890s. His legacy is that of an accomplished governor of Texas, too. But, he was a Confederate general when he was in his 20s and doesn’t fit in with modern woke morality. See: Aggies Watch Their Donor Base Go Up in Smoke.
The Rudder Association bragged earlier this year that it has taken on “DEI and biased journalism” on the A&M campus. Members of the Rudder Association wrote editorials and lobbied school officials to reconsider hiring McElroy.
She was a “former New York Times senior editor and current UT Austin professor steeped in ‘race and its intersection with journalism,’” wrote The Rudder Association’s president Matt Polig, class of 1990. He also claimed that, “Dr McElroy had been quoted as believing that journalists should be filtering out what they consider ‘illegitimate’ views.” And that, “The problem was the candidate’s obsessive focus on race.”
Policies promoting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, or DEI, have become a heated political issue in statewide politics as well as nationally. Proponents believe DEI policies build better organizations because there is increased trust among diverse individuals within groups. Opponents of DEI claim it is discrimination against individuals whose skin color, gender and sexual orientation are white, male, and heterosexual.
The Republican-led Texas Legislature passed a law this year that bans DEI offices, as well as mandatory DEI training and statements from colleges and universities. The law goes into effect on January 1.
Much of the opposition to McElroy’s hiring comes from a 2020 op-ed piece she wrote for the UT newspaper called The Texan. In the article, titled “The importance of faculty diversity is more than just a numbers game,” McElroy railed against “cisgender straight White men.”
On journalism, McElroy told the NPR in 2021, “We can’t just give people a set of facts anymore. I think we know that and we have to tell our students that. This is not about getting two sides of a story or 3 sides of a story, if one side is illegitimate. I think now you cannot cover education, you cannot cover criminal justice, you can’t cover all of these institutions without recognizing how all these institutions were built.” (Listen to NPR “Journalists Confront Their Role In Society After Pandemic, Political Turmoil And Racial Reckoning.”)
Opponents to McElroy point to this as her animus towards free speech in order to use the modern news media as propaganda tool for a leftwing political point-of-view.
The appointment of McElroy was heralded in the Texas and national press until groups close to Texas A&M and the conservative website Texas Scorecard starting digging into her record. Over the short period between McElroy’s appointment and now, Texas A&M changed the conditions of her contract. What originally was an offer with tenure was reduced to a five-year position, then to a one-year position from which she could be fired at any time. McElroy, who has tenure at UT, turned down the final offer and canceled negotiations. She will stay at UT with tenure.
Wednesday night, July 19, 2023, President Banks faced an angry A&M Faculty Senate that passed a resolution to create a fact-finding committee into the mishandling of the hiring of McElroy, according to the Texas Tribune.
In her resignation letter that apparently was written after the faculty senate meeting, Banks took full responsibility for the McElroy hiring fracas.
“The recent challenges regarding Dr. [Kathleen] McElroy have made it clear to me that I must retire immediately. The negative press is a distraction from the wonderful work being done here,” Banks wrote to Sharp. She made her resignation immediate.
Below is the 3:14 hour video of the meeting of the A&M faculty senate when President Kathy Banks addressed their concerns about the McElroy hiring process. For a good example of her responses, forward to 1 hour and 8 minutes in.
Texas A&M President Kathy Banks addresses the A&M Faculty Senate on July 19, 2023