Texas A&M University settles $1 million with Black journalism professor

Kathleen McElroy was awarded a $1 million settlement from Texas A&M University after her hiring was sabotaged by backlash due to her past work promoting diversity.

Texas A&M University has reached a settlement of $1 million with a Black Journalism professor whose hire was sabotaged because of backlash due to her previous work promoting diversity.

The largest public school in the country agreed to pay Kathleen McElroy, apologized and admitted that “mistakes had been made during the recruitment process.”

Texas A&M in College Station (90 miles northwest of Houston) welcomed McElroy in June with much fanfare in order to revive the journalism department. Former New York Times editor McElroy, a Texas A&M graduate and former New York Times reporter, had previously overseen the journalism program at A&M’s rival – the more liberal University of Texas at Austin.

McElroy said to the Texas Tribune that she was informed by unidentified individuals, shortly after her hire, of internal backlash from her previous work in improving diversity and inclusion within newsrooms.

According to documents released on Thursday, at least six members of the board of regents began “asking about and raising concerns” regarding McElroy’s hire after Texas Scorecard a website with a conservative lean highlighted her previous diversity, equity, and inclusion work.


A summary of the investigation revealed that the article on the website “sparked numerous calls and email to the President’s Office of TAMU from both current and former students, raising questions about why a DEI advocate would be hired as the director of the newly created journalism program.”

Soon after, Katherine Banks, president of the university and a dean at the school began to discuss changes and reductions made in the job offer for McElroy.

McElroy said to the Tribune that her initial tenure-track offer was reduced from a five-year to a one year position, and she could be terminated at any time. She rejected the offer, and resigned from UT-Austin in her role as a journalism instructor.

(Meredith Seaver/College Station Eagle via AP, File) (Meredith Seaver/College Station Eagle, via AP)

Banks told the university faculty that she was not involved in any of the changes made to McElroy’s contract offer.

Banks resigned shortly after the events surrounding her hiring were made public. The university then began an investigation. Later, the school’s regents approved negotiations with McElroy.


Texas A&M’s episode occurred at a time when Republican lawmakers are targeting DEI on college campuses across the U.S. and the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down affirmative actions, ruling that race can no longer be a factor in college admissions.

Some academics have also been very critical of the move and questioned whether outside political influences can affect campus freedom of speech.

American Association of University Professors president Irene Mulvey is a math professor at Fairfield University. She criticized how the hiring of McElroy was handled and referred to efforts against DEI as a “misguided cultural war.”

In a statement released jointly with McElroy to announce the settlement, the University said that the school had “learned from its mistakes” and would strive to prevent similar mistakes in the future.

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McElroy declared that the matter was “resolved.”

She said, “I hope that the resolution of this matter will reinforce A&M’s commitment to excellence in higher educational and to academic freedom and to journalism.”

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