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A&M President Scores Poorly in First Evaluation


Texas A&M University President Elsa Murano received low marks for leadership and management in a highly critical performance review released Thursday by the A&M system.

Murano, the first female and first Hispanic president in the 132-year history of the university, got the lowest possible marks when it came to follow through, acting decisively and timely, and being a team player in her first full year on the job.

The five-page review, which was sent to the A&M system’s board of regents, was done by Texas A&M University System Chancellor Mike McKinney, who wrote that Murano “fails to assume responsibility for decisions’” and criticized her for being “too slow” when it came to decisions.

McKinney’s review was written on Feb. 9. It lacked specifics and was handwritten rather than typed. A page allowing for him to write down goals for the president, as well as a summary of her strengths and areas needing attention, was left blank, the Bryan-College Station Eagle reported.

Murano, 49, disputed the poor review by McKinney in her 10-page typed response sent March 10 to the chancellor and the regents.

“Given the complete disconnection between Dr. McKinney’s perception of my performance as president and all the evidence to the contrary, I can conclude that this review was not based on facts,” Murano wrote.

In a statement issued Thursday, Murano declined further comment. A&M system spokesman Rod Davis, speaking on behalf of McKinney, said the system could not comment on personnel matters.

Murano was a celebrated internal choice for the presidency in January 2008 when she succeeded Robert Gates, who left to become U.S. secretary of defense. She was a historic selection at a school that was founded as an all-male military institution and didn’t admit women on an equal basis until 1971.

Born in Cuba before fleeing with her family in the early 1960s, Murano first joined the A&M faculty in 1995 and rose to become dean of the university’s agricultural school. She was also appointed to serve as undersecretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But a little more than a year into the job, the performance review documents reveal signs of tension between Murano and A&M system leaders. McKinney previously told the Bryan-College Station Eagle that regents were considering merging the positions of chancellor and president to save money. Such a move could push Murano from her post. But Davis said Thursday that no merger plans were in place.

Murano’s review included rankings in 40 categories that ranged from leadership to personal attributes, graded on a scale of 1 to 5. Murano received low marks of “1” or “2” in more than a dozen categories, including honesty and integrity.

“Does good job on things she likes,” McKinney wrote in Murano’s review. “Very poor on carrying out board system decisions with which she disagrees.”

“Incredibly, Dr. McKinney also rated me a ‘1’ in terms of being a team player. Does this simply refer to the fact that I question ideas and plans that cross my desk that are troubling and which I consider as potentially damaging to the university?” Murano wrote.

Her highest marks were four “4“s in the categories of crisis management, focus on the organizational mission, and relations with colleagues and associates. Murano wrote in her response that she would welcome discussing her evaluation with the regents.

“One need only consider that if it was an actual reflection of the job I have done as president, there would have been an incredible outcry from the entire university community,” she wrote.

Many A&M faculty members and former A&M President Ray Bowen have said over the past week that Murano never received the kind of mentoring and guidance required for a first-year president.

“I’m just kind of shocked at the nature of the document,” said R. Douglas Slack, after reading the performance review. He is a former speaker of the faculty senate.

“It looked to be hastily done. It doesn’t look like something that was well thought-out. It’s a contrast to the president’s well thought-out response.”

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