Could the Flawed Recruitment at Texas A&M Be a Precursor to Less Diversity in Classrooms? Some Believe So

by Chloe Baker
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The hiring of Kathleen McElroy in June was a celebrated event at Texas A&M University, signifying a new phase of diversity. Marked by an outdoor signing ceremony with balloons and banners, the hiring was even more special since McElroy was recruited from Texas A&M’s rival, the University of Texas at Austin.

The joy was short-lived, though. McElroy’s job offer fell apart within days as Texas A&M succumbed to criticism from Texas Scorecard, a conservative platform, and certain undisclosed individuals who were against her former diversity endeavors. Next year, a newly enacted state law will curb discussions related to race and inclusion on college campuses.

Effective from January, this Republican-supported legislation forbids staff at Texas’ higher educational establishments from advocating diversity, equity, or inclusion. Noncompliance might result in monetary sanctions.

While it’s meant to exclude academics and admissions, fears arise that it could be applied more widely, possibly suppressing free expression in classrooms.

Evidence of this can be seen in McElroy’s abrupt departure.

“What happened with McElroy demonstrates that even these areas are not protected,” expressed Karma Chavez, chair of Mexican American and Latino/a Studies at UT-Austin.


A few days post the Texas A&M event, McElroy learned of resistance to her hiring, according to the Texas Tribune. Unidentified critics objected to her association with the Times and her work on racial and diversity topics.

The Tribune stated that McElroy received three varying contract proposals. She eventually declined the offer and retracted her resignation from UT-Austin.

Texas A&M’s president, Katherine Banks, resigned after the publicity of McElroy’s recruitment process, and the institution’s legal team is probing the incident.

McElroy expressed her deep gratitude to her supporters but chose not to comment further.

Discussions of a possible settlement with McElroy were approved by the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents.

The situation is not limited to McElroy. Another professor, Joy Alonzo, has been placed on paid leave following allegations that she spoke unfavorably about Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Lt. Gov. Patrick, an advocate of the state’s DEI ban, has not responded to requests for comment.

These incidents occur as GOP states are targeting DEI measures in higher education, and affirmative action has been overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court.


Rebecca Hankins, a 20-year veteran professor at Texas A&M, expressed her lack of confidence in any improvement.

Hankins drew attention to the university’s history, including archival photographs of former groups in KKK robes, and a still-venerated Confederate Army general statue on campus.

Some alumni have publicly condemned the handling of McElroy’s hiring.

The Texas A&M Black Former Student Network has criticized the institution’s leadership for failing to adhere to its Core Values.

Students are anxious about how the DEI ban will influence campus life.

Andrew Applewhite, a junior leading the student senate at Texas A&M, called for transparent communication on the subject.

Interim president Mark A. Walsh of Texas A&M emphasized his belief in diversity as a strength, even though diversity is not expressly among the university’s promoted values.


Concerns surrounding McElroy’s unsuccessful hiring extend to the new law’s potential impact on recruitment and retention.

Pat Heintzelman, president of the Texas Faculty Association, noted that college administrators are raising qualification standards because of racial considerations.

Gov. Greg Abbott reinforced this stance earlier in the year, warning state entities to stop DEI hiring practices even before the ban.

According to Paulette Granberry Russell, president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, faculty members at universities with DEI restrictions are contemplating leaving their positions due to increased scrutiny, and this is likely to disproportionately affect faculty of color.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about diversity

What happened with Kathleen McElroy’s hiring at Texas A&M University?

Kathleen McElroy was celebrated as a diverse new hire at Texas A&M University but faced internal pushback over her experience with diversity initiatives. Her tenure offer unraveled within days under criticism from conservative groups and individuals. She received three different contract proposals and eventually declined the offer, returning to UT-Austin.

Who opposed Kathleen McElroy’s hiring?

Opposition came from Texas Scorecard, a conservative website, and an unspecified group of individuals close to the university who opposed her previous work on diversity.

What is the new state law affecting diversity initiatives in Texas?

The Republican-backed law, effective from January, prohibits employees at Texas higher education institutions from promoting diversity, equity, or inclusion. Noncompliance might lead to financial penalties.

What are the concerns about academic freedom and free speech?

While the law is supposed to exempt academics and admissions, many fear it could be broadly applied, chilling free speech and academic freedom in classrooms. McElroy’s case is seen as evidence that these concerns are valid.

Has there been other faculty affected by this situation?

Yes, allegations emerged that another professor, Joy Alonzo, was put on paid leave after being accused of speaking unfavorably about Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick during a lecture.

What are the future implications on higher education in Texas?

Concerns are rising over future diversity and free speech in Texas educational institutions. The new law’s impact on hiring and retention is causing anxiety, and some faculty members are considering leaving their positions due to increased scrutiny, particularly faculty of color.

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