Texas A&M President M. Catherine Banks resigned amid a fallout from the journalism program

Texas A&M University said Friday it is resigning as its president, following a conflict over the school’s transfer offers to a candidate who was poised to lead its journalism school but ultimately turned down the position after he faced a task to promote diversity.

Chairman, M. Katherine Banks submitted a letter of resignation late Thursday in which she said negative attention to press director Kathleen McElroy was a distraction for Texas A&M, one of the nation’s largest universities.

Days after the resignation of the dean overseeing the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Banks’ resignation follows a tense meeting between Dr. Banks and the university’s faculty senate on Wednesday.

During that meeting, Dr. Banks, who had been president for more than two years, said he regretted that Dr. McIlroy would not be joining the university and was embarrassed by how the situation had been handled. But Dr., a former editor of the New York Times and professor of journalism at the University of Texas. He also suggested he didn’t know much about the details that led to the changes McIlroy was given.

That version of events was challenged Friday by Hart Blanton, a professor who leads the university’s communications and journalism department. Dr. He said Banks actually “injected himself oddly and early on into the process” and that he misled the Faculty Senate about his role.

Dr. Blanton, Dr. McIlroy apparently was hired because he is black, and said someone sent a draft of the employment offer letter — changing the multi-year offer to one year — to Dr. McIlroy without his knowledge. He said he shared materials related to the failed hiring with university attorneys on Thursday and was pleased to see Dr. Banks resign.

As the latest clash at the intersection of higher education, diversity and politics, Dr. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed a bill this year that would ban offices and programs at publicly funded colleges that promote “diversity, equity and inclusion.”

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In Florida, in May, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law banning state colleges from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and banning the teaching of “identity politics” in certain required courses.

The controversy followed the failed appointment of another journalist, Nicole Hanna-Jones, who was affiliated with The Times in 2021 at the University of North Carolina. After he was named chair of the Department of Race and Investigative Journalism, the university’s board of trustees declined to grant him tenure. The rebuttal followed criticism by conservatives of Ms Hanna-Jones’ involvement in The Times’ 1619 project, which argued that 1619 – the year a group of enslaved Africans were brought to America – was as important in American history as 1776.

In the Texas A&M case, Dr. McIlroy said the university had promised him a five-year contract, but was eventually given a one-year contract after complaints from an alumni group. A conservative publication His work promoting diversity, including An opinion piece she wrote He said it was important to hire more non-white teachers.

Dr. McIlroy has spent decades in journalism — from sports to food — and said in a previous interview with The Times that diversity efforts are a small part of his journalistic and academic career.

A 1981 A&M graduate, Dr. McElroy ultimately rejected a one-year contract with the school, and the episode turned into a full-blown crisis for the university, according to The Texas Tribune. First reported on conflict. Dr. McElroy described a series of conversations in which the dean of A&M’s College of Arts and Sciences revealed there was a political push for his appointment.

“I said, ‘What’s wrong?'” Dr. McIlroy recalls his conversation with Dean Jose Luis Bermudez. “She said, ‘You’re a black woman at the New York Times, and to these people, it’s like working for Pravda.’

In a statement on Friday, Dr. “I am very grateful for the support I have received, especially from all the majors and my former and current students,” McIlroy said. He added that he would comment further in the future. “There’s a lot more I could say and say about what happened,” he said.

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The clash of academia and politics played out in an institution at the heart of Texas identity and culture. With nearly 75,000 students, Texas A&M in College Station, 95 miles northwest of Houston, is the state’s other leviathan of higher education — a more rural, conservative rival to the University of Texas at Austin. It is a university determined to be considered one of the world’s leading research institutions, while paying close attention to its traditions and its beginnings as a school with students from farming towns, who later sent them to the military.

The school is known for the intense loyalty of its graduates. Even by Texas standards, it’s defined by the celebration of the state and big-time sports, especially Aggie football. Both Texas A&M (2 percent) and the University of Texas at Austin (5 percent) have a disproportionately small percentage of black students, compared to the state as a whole (13.4 percent) or the cities where the universities are located.

Dr. What remained a mystery after Banks’ resignation was why the university changed its offer to Dr. McIlroy. A conservative alumni group, the Rudder Association, emailed A&M leadership after his appointment was announced and said in a statement that A&M should avoid the “divisive ideology of identity politics.” On Friday, the group’s president, Matt Poling, said he appreciated Dr. Banks’ service to the university.

at Faculty Senate meeting on WednesdayProfessors Dr. The university has been heavily criticized for contradicting McIlroy’s appointment, with some saying criticism of Dr. McIlroy’s work promoting diversity should not have factored into his hiring.

“It’s not right to assume that the university has gone back on a contract, and what’s wrong is that the initial contract was invalidated not because of merit, but because of the candidate’s views or demographics,” said Tracy Anne Hammond, professor of computer science and faculty speaker. He added: “Now, the faculty and the world have lost faith in Texas A&M University, and that’s a big problem.”

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Dr. Banks described a communication breakdown in trying to hire Dr. McIlroy but said the university stood by the offers he made.

“From what I understand, at all points in the process, she was coming here,” Dr. Banks said, adding that she wanted Dr. McIlroy to attend the university.

But he faced tough questions from faculty members, many of whom criticized what they said was political interference in the university’s hiring process and a series of embarrassing incidents.

“Obviously, nobody knows who made the offer, nobody knows how many offers were made, nobody knows who signed it, and nobody knows who read or wrote those offers,” said Raymundo Arróyave, an engineering professor. “Frankly, we look incompetent.”

Vice President for Faculty Affairs NK Anand in the meeting, Dr. He said the first offer letter to McElroy was for a tenure-track position, while the second offer letter — for a one-year director and three-year teaching position — was signed only by the department head. He said the university could not find any offer letter for five years.

Dr. The Faculty Senate passed a resolution to create a fact-finding committee to investigate how McIlroy’s hiring was handled. University system officials said Friday that in the early stages of an investigation into what went wrong, “what happened and why, we are committed to learning from mistakes and doing better in the future,” a university system spokeswoman said in a statement.

In another statement Friday, Chancellor John Sharp, dean of the university’s School of Government and Public Service Mark A. Welsh III said he would assume the presidency on an interim basis.

Stephanie Saul And Rick Rojas Contributed report.

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