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Newly selected LSU president Dr. William Tate IV speaks during a press conference following a meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Thursday, May 6, 2021, at the Lod Cook Alumni Center on the campus of LSU in Baton Rouge, La. Dr. Tate is slated to become the first African American president in LSU and SEC history.

LSU and William F. Tate IV have come to terms on a contract for the South Carolina scholar to take the reins as president of the LSU system and chancellor of the Baton Rouge flagship campus.

The terms have been agreed to, LSU executives said Monday, and ink will be placed on paper sometime this week. Tate said Sunday that he’d sign the contract.

Tate’s pay package will be about $775,000 per year, when auto and housing allowances are added. That’s more than the $670,000 annual pay that his predecessors F. King Alexander and Tom Galligan received, but in line with what other Southeastern Conference leaders make. He will start on July 5.

Tate said he and his wife will move into the school-owned University House on East Lakeshore Drive across University Lake from the Baton Rouge campus. The traditional president’s home has sat empty for nearly a decade. The second floor living areas haven’t been used since Michael Martin left his chancellor’s post in 2012. The downstairs was used occasionally for cocktail parties. The governor stayed there for a short time during repairs in 2016 when the Governor’s Mansion was flooded. But the governor’s office brought a lot equipment and necessaries when they stayed and took it all back when they returned.

LSU is repainting and replacing carpets but the Jetson’s-like design and furnishing will remain. “It’s real ‘60s vibe,” Tate said.

But, Tate said, he wants to be part of the LSU community. (Alexander bought his own house in a gated community about 10 miles from the campus.) Tate said he hoped visitors would focus more on how well they’re treated than on the décor. His children are grown and will only be in Baton Rouge for holidays and “hopefully, the occasional football game.”

His immediate goals will be to raise money for scholarships and upgrade research.

“Your reputation is built off your research,” Tate said. “We have to recalibrate.”

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His “scholarship first” efforts will include making LSU’s engineering, environmental, coastal, and human health programs some of the best in the nation.

Alexander left LSU after seven years in December 2019 to take a similar post at Oregon State. He was replaced by Tom Galligan, the dean of the LSU law school, while the Board of Supervisors worked to determine whether to split the top job. The System President is in charge of all of LSU campuses, which include four-year universities and a two-year college, along with a law school, two medical schools, the statewide Ag Center, and charity hospitals, all but one of which is administered by private contractors. The job also includes being chancellor at the LSU A&M campus in Baton Rouge, which is the state’s flagship university.

Galligan steered LSU through a national football championship, the closing and reopening of the universities during the pandemic, and the revelations that top administrators had, for years, failed to properly handle claims by female students of sexual misconduct on the part of officials and athletes. Galligan hired Husch Blackwell, a law firm, to investigate how prevalent the allegations were. The report was damning and led to the firing of both former football coach Les Miles from his new job at the University of Kansas and Alexander from his new post at Oregon State. LSU also fired the Baton Rouge law firm that had served LSU for about 80 years.

LSU also has begun drafting new rules that clearly detail how LSU employees should handle such complaints and is in the process of fully staffing a Title IX office, named after the federal law investigating and addressing the issues. The Louisiana Legislature approved bills that put into law how universities manage these claims.

Tate said he’ll be briefed soon on where the situation stands. But his goal is to frame Title IX issues with a “trauma-defined” approach. That means he wants the first exposure of a victim to be seeking counseling and treatment, rather than starting off with an intense legal questioning about the incident.

He also said in an interview Sunday prior to a celebratory dinner that he has no plans of changing the controversial “holistic admissions” standards that Alexander was widely criticized for implementing – despite regulations that required a minimum score on college board tests. Adopted by many elite universities around the country, the holistic approach downplays test scores and puts more emphasis on grade point averages, essay writing and the applicant’s personal history. Alexander argued that changing the admission standards allowed a lot more minority and low-income students to study at LSU.

“I have no plans to change it,” Tate said. “Nobody has suggested it’s not working.”

But he also has no empirical data from which to judge its effectiveness. He’s being briefed on LSU’s admissions practices and is most interested in how many students brought in under the standards are graduating.


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.

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