In June, Texas A&M University announced that Kathleen McElroy, who had a 20-year career at The New York Times and was serving as a professor in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Texas at Austin, would join the university’s communication and journalism department as a tenured professor to revamp the journalism program, which had been dropped as a major in 2004.
Professor McElroy was hired to build on existing partnerships and collaborations with KAMU public television and radio, 12th Man Productions, and campus organizations while also exploring potential partnerships with other journalism platforms. A priority for Professor McElroy was to build a curriculum that incorporates innovative ways to deliver news to underserved audiences across Texas and beyond.
At that time, Professor McElroy said “I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to be a part of something transformational for Texas A&M, for the state of Texas, and for journalism. We will make a positive difference — through our students in extracurricular and course content, as well as through the research programs we hope to build — and I can’t wait to get started.”
But when her appointment was announced, some conservative members of the university voiced opposition due to her efforts at enhancing diversity in newsrooms. To avoid the political pressures, Dr. McElroy was offered a new five-year deal without tenure that would not have been subject to approval by the board of regents. The deal was then revised as a one-year appointment where she could be terminated at any time. Dr. McElroy decided to stay at the University of Texas at Austin.
“I feel damaged by this entire process,” Dr. McElroy told the Texas Tribune. “I’m being judged by race, maybe gender. And I don’t think other folks would face the same bars or challenges. And it seems that my being an Aggie, wanting to lead an Aggie program to what I thought would be prosperity, wasn’t enough.”
Dr. McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University, where she majored in broadcast journalism. She holds a master’s degree from New York University and a doctorate in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.
Update: José Luis Bermúdez, interim dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Texas A&M University, who initially made the hiring decision, has announced he will step down as dean.