Sunday, June 14, 2009

True to each other as Aggies can be...

I'm incredibly disappointed that the beef between Texas A&M President Elsa Murano and Texas A&M University System Chancellor Mike McKinney has resulted in Pres. Murano's resignation. Murano's announcement comes just one day before a special meeting of the TAMU Board of Regents called specifically to discuss the continued employment of executive-level leaders.

The scheduled meeting marked the first official action on the part of the board since McKinney started the public beef by making a statement to the press regarding his contemplation of combining his position with that of Pres. Murano's. A public records request by KBTX the following week revealed that McKinney had rated Murano poorly in an off-schedule review and that Murano took exception to the ratings and had rebutted them point-by-point, copying the entire board.

I must admit that when Murano was named to the presidency, I was incredibly skeptical of her qualifications. The presidential search committee--composed of current students, faculty, former students, community members, and members of the board--forwarded a list of three finalists in August 2007, none of whom were selected. The search committee was unceremoniously disbanded with no clear way forward.. In the background of this process, rumors surfaced that Governor Perry had hand-selected a candidate with ties to the military and his undergrad years. Of a sudden, in a hastily-called meeting in late November 2007, the Regents apparently decided to offer the job to Murano, a decision announced about a week later. Murano took office on January 3, 2008.

The university community was understandably guarded about Murano with her hire in this context. A number of personnel changes in upper-administration did nothing to ease concerns, and the unceremonious firing of Dr. Bresciani from the position of Vice-President for Student Affairs (where he was a much-loved fixture) and the selection of the arguably under-qualified Gen. Joe Weber painted Murano's decision-making in a poor light to many at the university.

Fast-forward to the controversy this month, and I have to say that despite my previous evaluation of Murano, she acquits herself well in her rebuttal of McKinney's review. I find that, though I've not agreed with all of her decisions, I think that A&M is better for her having been president (as opposed to, say, McKinney). Paul Burka at BurkaBlog speculates that Murano got in trouble by stepping out from beneath the Perry/McKinney thumb and poking into shady political dealings. I think that that makes the whole situation stink worst of all.

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