UPDATE: Texas A&M has named TAMU Galveston CEO R. Bowen Loftin the interim president of TAMU in College Station.
News is exploding out of College Station today. In case you missed it, Texas A&M president Elsa Murano resigned Sunday. The TAMU board of regents was slated to meet today to discuss Murano’s performance. Here’s your straightforward news story detailing the resignation and the events that led up to it. In short, Murano was given a poor performance review by A&M System Chancellor Mike McKinney. Speculation has swirled that McKinney wants to combine the TAMU president position with the chancellor’s position. The Statesman did a tremendous job detailing the rift between Murano and McKinney prior to her decision to resign.
You can read Murano’s statement that accompanied her resignation here. An excerpt, with a link that also includes important documents such as McKinney’s performance review and Murano’s response to the review, follows:
“My husband Peter and I fell in love with Texas A&M the moment we set foot in Aggieland back in 1995,” she continued. “This deep and abiding passion for what the university represents, and for the people of the Aggie family, reinforces my duty to do what is best for Texas A&M. For this reason, I will be resigning as President of our beloved university, effective tomorrow, June 15, 2009, to return to the faculty, subject to approval by the Board of Regents.”
Not surprisingly, this story has implications outside the world of academia. McKinney once served as Gov. Rick Perry’s former chief of staff. Furthemore, Perry has appointed all nine regents of the TAMU system. Many who know the governor well have wondered if A&M might be his preferred “final destination” in public life:
Apart from having a favorable selection board, Perry also has the benefit of good timing. The final legislative session of Perry’s term recently ended and a competitive, high-dollar gubernatorial primary race with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has not yet begun. If Perry has ever dreamed of becoming President of Texas A&M, the open position couldn’t have come at a better time.
On to the reactions—and boy have there been reactions. Perry, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Jon Hagler (A&M distinguished alumnus and board chairman of the Texas A&M Foundation), A&M faculty and reporter Jason Embry all weigh in:
Perry‘s reaction: Texas Gov. Rick Perry says he was not surprised by the sudden resignation of Texas A&M president Elsa Murano. Perry says he considers it part of his job to stay in the loop about university administrators but that he has faith in the board of regents to make the right decisions. . . . Perry says Murano served the school well.
Hutchison‘s reaction: “Texas A&M University is one of the premier universities in the country. The current situation with the leadership is unfortunate, unacceptable, and does the great Aggie community a disservice. I hope at their meeting today, the Board of Regents remains focused on keeping A&M a nationally recognized university and ends the politics involved now.”
Hagler‘s reaction (excerpts): Today’s crisis really isn’t about Dr. Elsa Murano, who has announced her intention to resign as President, or for that matter, Chancellor Mike McKinney. It is about whether an academic institution of almost 50,000 students and 250,000 former students – a member of the Association of American Universities – deserves the freedom to aspire to better things and to manage itself as an institution of higher education. . . .
So, today we have a System empowered by its regents – all nine of whom are appointed by our current governor – to make all critical decisions for the flagship university, as well – presumably – as for all of the other System universities. And, the regents have delegated that responsibility completely to one person, a non-educator, a politician who was not selected through a national or even regional search. One person agreed with himself that Chancellor McKinney was the choice: his former boss, Governor Perry, for whom he had served a stint as chief of staff.
Embry‘s reaction: Will Republican primary voters who are Aggies (probably not a small group) hold the turmoil against Perry next year, when he runs for re-election against a devout Longhorn? And this will all probably give new life to speculation that Perry himself would like to go be chancellor of the A&M System — speculation that Perry has never publicly validated, to my knowledge.
Faculty reaction: A poll of faculty members found that 85.5 percent of those responding oppose combining the jobs of chancellor and president, said Robert Bednarz, a geography professor and speaker of the Faculty Senate.
And not surprisingly, the blogosphere is exploding with reaction. Check out the Aggie Forum Board for a public discussion of the Murano situation from Aggies past and present, a look at the Latina/woman issue here, a blogger unsettled by Murano’s remarks here, and a decent summary of everything here.
Reaction has also been vibrant on Twitter. A search of TAMU on the microblogging site returns responses like these:
dbarrettmoore: the TAMU good ole boy strikes again. They got too caught up in trying to be diverse. Next University president… Rick Perry.
myspi: 100 Texas A&M professors gather at today’s regents meeting opposing combining chancellor/president posts. TAMU president resigned Sunday.
So, after all that… what’s your reaction?