In a recent interview with The Texas Tribune, esteemed journalism professor Kathleen O. McElroy revealed that she has declined an offer to become the director of Texas A&M University’s new journalism school. McElroy cited concerns about “DEI hysteria” (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) as the reason behind the university’s decision to water down her contract.
According to McElroy, Texas A&M University engaged in extensive behind-the-scenes negotiations. In response to the concerns raised, McElroy initially agreed to a five-year contract position without tenure. However, on Sunday, she received a third offer, which consisted of a one-year contract, and emphasized that her appointment would be at-will, meaning she could be terminated without cause at any moment. McElroy ultimately declined this offer and shared all the offer letters with the Texas Tribune.
She expressed her disappointment, feeling that she was being judged based on race and possibly gender. McElroy, who is a Black woman and a native of Houston’s Third Ward, added, “And it seems that my being an Aggie, wanting to lead an Aggie program to what I thought would be prosperity, wasn’t enough.”
In light of these developments, McElroy has decided to continue her work as a tenured professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
According to the Tribune, she received a warning call from José Luis Bermúdez, interim dean of A&M’s College of Arts & Sciences, who expressed concerns that certain individuals could force the leadership to terminate her, leaving him unable to protect her.
Bermúdez also told McElroy she had a target on her back, telling her that in some conservative circles, The New York Times is akin to the Communist Soviet Union’s newspaper in the early 1900s.
“DEI Hysteria” Shadows New Journalism Program Director
McElroy’s selection as the director of Texas A&M’s journalism program was initially met with celebration within the industry. However, changes to her contract appeared to be wrapped up in “DEI hysteria” as universities figure out how to comply with a statewide ban on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs and how to handle race-related work on their campuses, she told The Texas Tribune.
Despite the controversies, McElroy emphasized that her work at Texas A&M wouldn’t have much to do with diversity or equity. She said she was hired to focus on curriculum development, reaching underserved audiences across the state, program expansion, faculty recruitment, and internship opportunities for future student journalists.
The school had a journalism department for 55 years, closing down in 2004. Students interested in journalism could continue to study it through a minor, or a liberal arts degree in university studies, according to the university.
The new journalism program is part of a larger academic reorganization taking place at Texas A&M.