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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M and McElroy settle, resolving hiring conflict

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Photo by Photo by Cameron Johnson

A&M apologized for its conduct during the recent cases involving Kathleen McElroy and Joy Alonzo and has agreed to pay McElroy $1 million as part of the settlement over her hiring process.

The Texas A&M system has settled with Kathleen McElroy, Ph.D., over her botched hiring, awarding her $1 million in damages. McElroy will continue working as a tenured professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.

John Sharp, chancellor of the A&M system, wrote in an Aug. 3 email sent to all A&M-affiliated accounts that he acknowledged the university’s wrongdoings.

“It is time to come together, put our house back in order and vow to never let this happen again,” Sharp wrote. “We all must re-dedicate ourselves to the Aggie values that define us and bind us. To begin with, I want to apologize publicly to Dr. McElroy and [I] fervently hope we can eventually heal with our mutual love for Texas A&M.”

Sharp also apologized to Joy Alonzo, PharmD, an A&M clinical assistant professor who was put on leave after statements criticizing Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, but maintained that he was not directly involved in the suspension, as confirmed by A&M system investigations on both cases that have recently concluded.

“To Dr. Alonzo, I am sorry her name was bandied about in the news media four months after the university had cleared her of allegations she had criticized Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in a manner that at least one student found offensive,” Sharp wrote. “The truth is, the university put her on paid leave while it investigated with no initiation or interference from me. Further, Dr. Joy Alonzo says she has no issue with how the university handled her case.”

In his email, Sharp provided a link to internal review documents released by the A&M system following the investigations containing over 500 pages of email exchanges, text messages and other correspondence relating to McElroy’s hiring. In memorandums that summarized the findings of the investigation, pressure to reduce the terms of McElroy’s initial offer were linked to a June 15 Texas Scorecard article criticizing McElroy, labeling her as a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, or DEI, advocate.

“After the Texas Scorecard article, [former A&M President M. Katherine] Banks said that she received calls from [six to seven] members of the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents asking questions and raising concerns about McElroy’s hiring,” the memorandum stated. “Regents questioned how McElroy’s advocacy for DEI could be reconciled with TAMU’s obligations under [Texas Senate Bill] 17.”

Contrary to her statements at a faculty senate meeting, the memorandum stated Banks was aware of and influenced the reduction of McElroy’s offer.

“During the afternoon of July 6, after the board meeting, Banks called former Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Science José Luis Bermúdez,” the memorandum stated. “Bermúdez reports that Banks instructed him to call McElroy and advise her that she was coming into a difficult environment, and also instructed him to change the faculty appointment from a 3-year appointment to a 1-year appointment.”

The documents also confirm Hart Blanton, Ph.D., department head of communication and journalism at A&M, did not sign off on the one-year offer despite his electronic signature being present.

“Bermúdez did not provide the updated appointment letters to Blanton for review prior to sending them to McElroy and Blanton on July 9,” the memorandum stated. “The only change to the letters was to the length of the term of the faculty appointment. Blanton’s signature was included on the July 9 drafts due to an automated electronic signature feature of the document … When sending the appointment letters to McElroy on July 9, Bermúdez’[s] cover email indicated that the letters were drafts and asked McElroy to contact him if she ‘would like to revisit some aspects of the offer.’”

In response to the findings, on July 30, the A&M System Board of Regents unanimously voted to begin negotiating a settlement with McElroy. McElroy will receive a $1 million settlement from the A&M system as part of the agreement. After the university released its report, McElroy issued a short follow-up statement, where she was satisfied with the resolution of the affair and was looking to move on.

“This matter has been resolved,” McElroy said. “But I wish I could bottle the encouragement I received from organizations, government officials, friends and strangers, and distribute that support to the rest of the world … I know others deserve similar attention — from Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, still detained in Russia, to everyday people who quietly bear the brunt of oppressive policies and practices. I’m moving forward. I’m excited about projects I have resumed at the University of Texas at Austin, including work in ethical leadership in media as well as supporting community journalism. My career continues as does my commitment to journalism, higher education and trying to do the right thing.”
 

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