The president of Texas A&M University has resigned after the school was accused of mishandling the hiring of a Black editor to revive its journalism department.
M. Katherine Banks submitted her resignation, effective immediately, late Thursday evening to Chancellor John Sharp. Her resignation letter specifically cited the difficulties around hiring Kathleen McElroy, a current University of Texas professor and a former New York Times editor. McElroy is a 1981 graduate of Texas A&M.
“The recent challenges regarding Dr. McElroy have made it clear to me that I must retire immediately,” Banks wrote in her resignation. “The negative press is a distraction from the wonderful work being done here.”
In June, McElroy was offered a position with the possibility of tenure, and the announcement was celebrated with a public signing ceremony.
But when groups from outside the university began protesting McElroy’s past with the New York Times, the offer changed to a five-year position, then to a one-year professor of practice appointment in which she could be fired at any time. The offer did come with an option to renew.
McElroy refused the offer, saying it showed the university didn’t really want her there.
“In no shape, form or fashion would I give up a tenured position at UT for a one-year contract that emphasizes that you can be let go at any point,” she said, according to the Texas Tribune.
According to the Texas Tribune, as negotiations for McElroy’s position began to fall apart, José Luis Bermúdez, the interim dean of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, told her there was discussion about her taking place around the university.
“You’re a Black woman who worked at The New York Times,” he told her, according to the Tribune, adding that opposition to her appointment was coming from conservative circles.
Bermúdez also announced this week he would step down from his role as interim dean at the end of the month.
On Wednesday, Texas A&M’s faculty senate passed a resolution to create a committee to look into the mishandling of McElroy’s hiring.
Banks, who served for two years as the university’s president, denied knowing about the changes to McElroy’s offer, even as she took responsibility for the fallout.
Mark A. Welsh III, dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service, will now serve as acting president. Sharp has recommended that the Board of Regents appoint Welsh as an interim until a national search for a new president is complete.