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Texas A&M University reaches settlement | College Station

The A&M interim president released documents regarding two high-profile cases involving staff.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Just one day after Texas A&M’s interim president promised transparency, the university released documents related to two high-profile case incidents.

Professor Joy Alonzo, a respected opioid expert, was placed on paid leave and investigated after Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick called John Sharp, Chancellor of the Texas A&M System, and asked him to look into alleged comments she made about him during a lecture. 

Kathleen McElroy, Ph.D., a celebrated journalist, was hired to revive A&M’s journalism program but eventually turned down the deal after university leaders changed the offer numerous times among backlash from regents about McElroy’s work on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. 

The documents obtained by KVUE showed Alonzo was placed on administrative leave and investigated by the university back in March regarding allegations surrounding comments made on March 7. After that investigation finished, the school lifted Alonzo’s administrative leave on March 21.

In a letter from March 22, the Department Head of Pharmacy Practice for Texas A&M University wrote a letter to Alonzo, stating that during an Opioid Overdose Education & Naloxone Administration (OENA) presentation at the University of Texas at Galveston, “you [Alonzo] related an anecdote and interaction with a state official. While you did not name the state official you did name the office held. I understand that your comment did not assign blame.”

The document proceeds to state that some people in the audience found the anecdote offensive. The College of Pharmacy told Alonzo to “be mindful on how you present your views” and that the school “supports and welcomes your research efforts and contributions in the fight against the opioid crisis.”

The university also released several documents regarding McElroy’s botched hiring due to backlash surrounding her employment and experience at the New York Times.

The initial discussion of hiring McElroy started in 2022 when there was an email sent asking to bring McElroy on board to work for A&M. In an email dated July 17, 2022, it stated: “we purpose the recruitment of Dr. Kathleen McElroy as a one-year, full-time Visiting Professor and Interim Director of Journalism in the Department of Communications & Journalism.” 

It also talked about her extensive career and experience working “at the highest level in the journalism industry.” At the time, McElroy was a G.B. Dealey Regents Professor and Director of Journalism at the Moody School of Communication at UT Austin.

McElroy sent back an email on April 6, 2023 discussing her plans for the Journalism program. In it McElroy stated “The newly named Department of Communication & Journalism would become even stronger by developing partnerships across campus and industries that give our majors access to such fields as data visualization and departments as Latino/a & Mexican American Studies. We should be training sought-after data journalists and Spanish-language journalists.”

Then on April 28 an offer was purposed for McElroy regarding the next steps for her employment, along with a summary of her review. The review had high praises for her. 

However, there was backlash regarding her work at the New York Times that was presented to the A&M Board of Regents. In one document that was sent to the regents, it stated that the former Interim Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences at Texas A&M, Jose Bermudez, told McElroy, “that her appointment had ‘stirred up a hornet’s nest’ and warned her not to give up her position at the University of Texas.'”

In a text from June one of the regents wrote “I thought the purpose of us starting a journalist department was to get a high-quality Aggie journalist with conservative values into the market.” 

The documents also showed that certain alumni groups also objected to her hiring. A&M changed their job offer after announcing McElroy was picked in June. In July, she ended up speaking publicly to the Texas Tribune. 

Former A&M President Katherine Banks responded to McElroy not taking the offer stating “I think we dodged a bullet… she is a awful person to go the press before us.”

Banks later stepped down as A&M’s President amid this controversy, and McElroy stated she would be staying at UT. 

Texas A&M University and McElroy released a joint statement Thursday:

Dr. Kathleen McElroy and the leadership of Texas A&M University and The Texas A&M University System announced today that they have settled their differences regarding Dr. McElroy’s employment in the Texas A&M journalism program. Texas A&M acknowledges that mistakes were made during the hiring process relating to Dr. McElroy. The leadership of Texas A&M apologizes to Dr. McElroy for the way her employment application was handled, has learned from its mistakes and will strive to ensure similar mistakes are not repeated in the future. 

Commenting on the settlement, Dr. 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.” 

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

Texas A&M agreed to pay McElroy $1 million as part of the settlement.

This is a developing story.

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https://www.wfaa.com/article/news/education/schools/texas-am-settlement-hiring/269-2ec5c5ee-d7e5-49f5-8f0a-b15afc419b13 Texas A&M University reaches settlement | College Station

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