Texas A&M University announced on Friday that its president, Mr. Katherine Banks, would “immediately retire” amid controversy over the mishandling of the hiring of a black journalist.
According to an official statement from the university on Friday, Banks submitted her letter Thursday evening announcing that she would retire immediately, saying “the negative press has become a distraction.”
The university said Mark A. Welsh III, the dean of the university’s School of Government and Public Service, will serve as interim president until a national search is conducted for a successor.
Banks’ announcement comes days after the school’s faculty senate passed a resolution to launch a committee of inquiry to investigate the hiring of University of Texas professor and former Kathleen McElroy. New York Times journalist, was manhandled.
“Recent challenges with Dr. McElroy have made it clear to me that I need to retire immediately,” Banks said in his announcement.
The university announced last month that it had hired Texas A&M graduate McElroy to lead its journalism program. However, the hiring drew backlash from Texas conservatives, who criticized McElroy’s previous statements on diversity, equity and inclusion, according to The TexasTribune, who reported the story first.
Once McElroy’s offer was extended, it quickly fell apart once the details of the position changed – as the position was originally eligible for tenure, but was replaced by a one-year practice professorship, according to the university.
McElroy ultimately turned down the offer of a one-year contract, the Grandstand reported.
At a meeting of the Texas A&M faculty senate on Wednesday, Banks denied knowledge of changes to McElroy’s job posting. However, she took responsibility for the “flawed hiring process” in the wake of the backlash, suggesting McElroy was the victim of “anti-revival hysteria” and “outside interference” when it came to the hiring process, the university said.
McElroy did not immediately respond to NPR’s request for comment. She told the Grandstand that she felt “damaged by this whole process” and believed she was being judged based on her race and possibly gender.
“And I don’t think other people would face the same obstacles or challenges,” McElroy said.
The Rudder Association, an organization formed by current and former students, faculty and Texas A&M staff dedicated to preserving campus values, said in a statement that it has raised concerns with campus administration. However, the group said it “believes a department head should embrace the egalitarian, merit-based traditions that characterize Texas A&M values rather than the divisive ideology of identity politics.”
“We remain hopeful that Texas A&M will continue to lead in this important area, as it has in many others throughout its history,” said Matt Poling, president of the Rudder Association.
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