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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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Prospective A&M journalism director Kathleen McElroy plans to return to UT due to updated A&M job offer

Kathleen+McElroy%2C+Ph.D%2C+signs+her+first+offer+letter+in+front+of+students%2C+professors+and+faculty+outside+the+academic+building+on+Tuesday%2C+June+13%2C+2023.
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Kathleen McElroy, Ph.D, signs her first offer letter in front of students, professors and faculty outside the academic building on Tuesday, June 13, 2023.

On June 13, it was announced Kathleen McElroy, Ph.D, would head Texas A&M’s revitalized journalism program. A&M held a welcoming ceremony, attended by students, faculty and staff, to celebrate her official signing.

A month later, on July 11, McElroy’s updated offer to be director awaits unanswered.

“My offer is sitting in my inbox,” McElroy said.

After several significant changes to her employment offer from A&M after the signing, McElroy plans to return to the University of Texas at Austin, resuming her role as a tenured professor.

McElroy received two revisions to her offer letter from A&M after the ceremony, according to reporting by the Texas Tribune. The second offer was a verbal agreement to a five-year contract without tenure, McElroy said.

In the most recent offer, emailed on July 9, McElroy said she was offered a one-year contract as an untenured professor and a three-year appointment as the journalism director, in which she could be terminated at will.

McElroy said she ultimately doesn’t consider the latest offer as legitimate. According to McElroy, all contracts at UT-Austin include at-will termination, but McElroy said her most recent offer emphasizes the “at-will” section in ways that other contracts don’t.

“Most professors of practice get five-year contracts,” McElroy said, comparing the differences between her A&M offer and UT-Austin contracts.

On Sunday, July 7, McElroy received a phone call from José Luis Bermúdez, the interim dean of A&M’s College of Arts and Sciences, during which he ultimately recommended she return to UT-Austin.

After her July 7 phone call with Bermúdez, McElroy said she began communicating with staff at UT-Austin to resume her position.

In an email obtained by The Eagle on July 11, McElroy informed the UT-Austin School of Journalism and Media’s director, David Ryfe, that she wished to return as a professor several days prior.

Bermúdez called McElroy on the night of July 10 regarding her pending response to the most recent offer, McElroy said.

“He said that he was expecting me to negotiate the one-year contract, and I said ‘Why would I ever give up tenure for a one-year contract?’” McElroy said. “He even said it was typical. He had told me earlier that it was typical for A&M to have much longer contracts.”

Despite the new, unfavorable conditions of her recent offer, McElroy said the situation doesn’t affect her as a professional, but instead as a person.

McElroy said she was told there were people who were not happy that she was a Black woman who worked at The New York Times.

“I realized there are people who will only ever see me as a Black woman, no matter what my deeds might be,” McElroy said. “I’m proud to be a Black woman.”

In 2004, A&M stopped offering journalism as a major, instead offering it as a minor, then later as a University Studies degree with a concentration in journalism. In February, the Texas A&M System Board of Regents approved adding three new programs, notably including the revival of its journalism major.

Any new majors, including the new journalism program, must be reviewed and approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and its next quarterly meeting is set to be held on July 27.

With the loss of McElroy, the journalism program is may not be approved due to the unfilled program director position.

“I hope it doesn’t harm A&M’s journalism program,” McElroy said. “I want the best for A&M’s journalism program. I really do.”

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About the Contributor
Ana Renfroe
Ana Renfroe, Head News Editor
Ana Renfroe, Class of 2025, is a journalism junior with a minor in professional writing from Bryan, Texas. Ana has served as The Battalion's head news editor from May 2023 to May 2024. Previously, she was the assistant news editor for the spring 2023 semester. Ana has covered breaking news, politics, and more. She typically covered the Texas A&M System and university administration, Texas and Bryan-College Station politics, student government and more. Ana previously hosted and produced episodes of The Batt Signal, The Battalion's news podcast. Additionally, she was a copyeditor and feature writer for Maroon Life magazine, and helped contribute to the Aggieland Yearbook.
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