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Texas A&M regents could offer a settlement to the journalism professor at center of hiring controversy

By William Melhado, The Texas Tribune

Texas A&M regents could offer a settlement to the journalism professor at center of hiring controversy” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents will meet Sunday to authorize the university to negotiate a potential settlement with Kathleen McElroy, a Black University of Texas at Austin journalism professor, who turned down a position at A&M after the university changed her job offer under pressure from conservative groups.

McElroy’s botched hiring led to the resignation of multiple administrators, including the university president last week. It’s not clear whether McElroy, who said she felt judged because of her race and gender, has filed claims against A&M, but if the board gives its approval the university could enter a settlement discussion with the UT professor, who has since hired legal counsel.

The Board of Regents also plans to appoint an interim president for A&M, according to an agenda for the July 30 special meeting, which is open to the public.

On July 20, M. Katherine Banks resigned as president of the university following the public backlash over the failed hiring of McElroy. Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp named Mark A. Welsh III, dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service, as acting president following Banks’ departure. Sharp recommended appointing Welsh in the interim until the board can do a national search for a new president.

A&M celebrated the hiring of McElroy earlier this year to revive the university’s journalism program as a tenure-track professor. But following outcries from conservative groups and alumni, McElroy was presented with a succession of different offer letters that promised a less lucrative role at A&M. McElroy turned down the final offer, which was a one-year contract that could be terminated at any time.

McElroy told The Texas Tribune on Friday that negotiations “are still ongoing” and declined further comment.

The Board of Regents will consult with A&M System attorneys, likely in executive session or otherwise behind closed doors, to discuss the possibility of settling with McElroy over the failed hiring.

In addition to Banks’ resignation, two deans at the university announced their plans to step down from their administrative roles at A&M in the wake of the mishandled hiring. The case has deflated morale among A&M faculty members, who previously expressed distrust with the administration over what they said was a lack of transparency in the decision-making process.

Kate McGee contributed to this story.

Disclosure: Kathleen McElroy, Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University System and University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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