Texas A&M University reaches $1 million settlement in journalism program hiring controversy

Dr. Kathleen McElroy has reached a $1 million settlement with Texas A&M University over the improper handling of her hiring process for the journalism program.

In a joint statement with Texas A&M University, McElroy stated, "Texas A&M University remains in my heart despite the events of the past month. I will never forget that Aggies — students, faculty members, former students, and staff — voiced support for me from many sectors. I hope the resolution of my matter will reinforce A&M’s allegiance to excellence in higher education and its commitment to academic freedom and journalism."

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The settlement comes after the leadership of Texas A&M University launched an internal review led by the Office of General Counsel (OGC) into McElroy’s hiring process. Chancellor Sharp and other university officials were interviewed as part of the review, and documents, emails, and text messages were collected.

Following the internal review, Texas A&M University acknowledged that mistakes were made during the hiring process and issued an apology to Dr. McElroy for the mishandling of her employment application.

The water tower at Texas A&M University on Monday, June 15, 2020 in College Station.


According to the joint statement, the university has "learned from its mistakes and will strive to ensure similar mistakes are not repeated in the future."

A report was released on August 3 detailing the findings of the internal review conducted by the OGC.

Susan Ballabina, Chief External Affairs Officer & Senior VP for Academic and Strategic Collaborations, learned McElroy would lead TAMU's journalism program early in May 2023, with expected positive media coverage and concerns about her diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) stance, as described in the review report.

On May 11, Hart Blanton, head of the Department of Communication and Journalism, informed McElroy of her hire. Later, based on DEI optics, the announcement was delayed until after a legislative session.

During a text conversation between José Bermudez, former interim dean of Texas A&M’s College of Arts and Sciences, and Blanton on May 11 and 12, 2023, Bermudez mentioned to Blanton that he had spoken with Katherine Banks, former Texas A&M President, about the McElroy hire and that she preferred not to announce it until after the legislative session ended, the report states.

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In response, Blanton expressed his concerns that it could result in negative publicity for the University, stating "if we ask a famous Black journalist not to share her exciting decision with the world." 

A public announcement took place on June 13. However, an article raised DEI concerns. The review report noted that the decision to hire McElroy was met with positive and negative reactions.

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Regents questioned McElroy's DEI advocacy, leading to tenure reconsideration, the report details. McElroy was told her tenure might face challenges due to DEI politics. Changes in McElroy’s initial offer and McElroy's distress with the process led to a communication breakdown.

Appointment letters were altered, then withheld due to a recent meeting, leading to further misunderstandings. McElroy ultimately decided to turn down the position. 

Dr. McElroy will continue as a tenured Professor at the University of Texas at Austin.