- Written by Bernd Debussmann Jr.
- BBC News
The president of Texas A&M University has abruptly resigned from her position amid “negative press” surrounding the appointment of a professor of journalism.
Committee chair Katherine Banks said she took responsibility for the “flawed hiring process” that includes former New York Times editor Kathleen McIlroy.
Dr. McElroy, who is black, received an original offer of a permanent position which was reduced to a one-year position.
Dr Banks said Dr McElroy had been a victim of “anti-revival hysteria”.
Dr. McElroy indicated that her race and gender may have caused the backlash.
The controversy comes amid growing calls from some Republican lawmakers to halt or ban diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) programs on universities.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has already signed a bill to dismantle DEI programs at state-funded public universities, including Texas A&M.
Dr. McElroy, a 20-year veteran of The New York Times, has done previous research on the role race plays in the media.
Texas A&M had originally hired her on a regular track to revive the school’s journalism program, which was later changed to a five-year and eventually one-year show. I declined the offer.
The initial decision to appoint him was reportedly criticized by some staff and members of the school’s alumni network.
In a resignation letter, Dr. Banks said that “negative press” about Dr. McElroy’s work had become a “distraction” at Texas A&M University, which has about 70,000 students.
“Recent challenges with Dr McElroy have made it clear to me that I must retire immediately,” she wrote.
A statement from the university added that Dr. Banks had hinted to colleagues that Dr. McElroy was the victim of “anti-Baath hysteria” and “external interference” in the recruitment process.
Dr. Banks also told colleagues that she was not involved in changing the job offer to Dr. McElroy.
Dr. McElroy told The Texas Tribune earlier this month that she felt “damaged” by the controversy, saying, “I’m being judged based on race, and maybe gender. And I don’t think other people are going to have the same obstacles or challenges.”
In the United States, schools, organizations, and brands have come under fire from conservative lawmakers for “wake up,” a term used by some commentators and politicians as a catch-all term covering a variety of topics, from climate change to support for minorities.
In the case of Dr. McElroy, the Rudder Society — a group of students, alumni, and staff of Texas A&M University — said it was concerned that by hiring Dr. McElroy, the university was not embracing a “tradition of equality and meritocracy” and instead moving toward a “divisive ideology of identity politics.” It has disputed claims that alumni, donors and taxpayers constitute “outside influence”.
Dr. Banks is the second high-profile university president to resign this week after Stanford’s Marc-Tessier-Lavigne, who announced his intention to leave after an independent review found “serious flaws” in the academic papers he was involved with. Another prominent American college personality was fired from his job this month after allegations of toxic culture on the Northwestern University football team.