On his first day as LSU’s new president and chancellor, William Tate IV implored students to get the coronavirus vaccine, said he wants to compete for top-level students the way that LSU vies for in-demand athletes, and promised to review LSU’s recent Title IX changes.
Tate gave a wide-ranging news conference Tuesday morning after he received his LSU identification card and planned to spend the day meeting with groups of students, faculty and staff members. He said he is confident that LSU’s reputation can recover from its recent blows — especially related to the university's handling of sexual assault cases — by creating processes that people can trust. He also said that he wants to instill a “scholarship first” mantra across campus.
Tate said he had not had time yet to give an in-depth review of the changes that his predecessor, Tom Galligan, tried to implement regarding reporting sexual assault on campus. He said he’s concerned about holding people accountable who fail to report misconduct, and that while Galligan — a lawyer — approached the subject from a legal standpoint, Tate — an epidemiologist — will explore LSU’s Title IX rules through a public health lens.
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LSU is facing two federal lawsuits over Title IX reporting, one from a group of students who say LSU failed to properly address their complaints of sexual assault and domestic violence, and another from an employee who says LSU retaliated against her for reporting misconduct. The university is also the subject of two federal Department of Education investigations over potential Title IX violations and potential violations of the Clery Act, which requires campuses to report crimes.
“You have to create processes people trust,” Tate said. “The one thing about being litigated against is, everything will be exposed.”
Tate said that LSU also needs to do more to invest in resources to keep its top-flight faculty, saying that no university has ever cut its way to excellence. That includes building labs, securing research grants and more.
The former dean of the Graduate School at Washington University in St. Louis, Tate said he’s particularly interested in how LSU recruits graduate students. He likened the landscape to vying against SEC peers for the best star athletes, saying LSU needs better benefit structures and incentives that will make star graduate students want to attend the university.
The 4th of July weekend marks the transition of leadership at LSU.
And even for athletes, Tate said LSU can do a better job of emphasizing the “student” aspect of their “student athlete” titles, noting that not every student athlete on campus will vie for a national championship or turn pro.
As he meets with groups on campus, Tate said he especially wants to develop a good relationship with LSU’s Greek Life leaders because students involved in Greek Life tend to be among those who remain most engaged after they graduate. Tate, LSU’s first Black president, was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity in college, which was the U.S.'s first historically Black fraternity.
He said he will call on fraternity alumni groups to set a good example for younger members, as LSU has struggled to eliminate fraternity hazing on campus.
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Tate also said that LSU’s coronavirus vaccination rate among students of 26% is nowhere near as high as it needs to be. He warned of effects to the broader community if more students don’t get vaccinated.
“Let’s be clear about it: that number is not good,” Tate said. “Literally, we’re bringing a small city back to this geospatial region, and that small city is a vector.”
Around 73% of LSU faculty members and more than 50% of staff members have received the vaccine, and LSU’s Faculty Senate has pushed to require mandatory coronavirus vaccinations this fall for students. LSU’s Board of Supervisors voted last month to urge the Louisiana Department of Health to add coronavirus vaccines to their schedule of required immunizations to attend Louisiana public schools.
The Board of Supervisors chose William F. Tate IV as the new president of Louisiana's flagship campus.
Some private universities in the state, including Tulane, Loyola, Xavier and Dillard, are mandating vaccines for students this fall.
Tate said that he wanted to come to LSU in part because of a “great commitment to the American South,” though he originally hails from Chicago. One of the most difficult transitions: As a lifelong Chicago Bears fan, he said south Louisiana's fervent support for the New Orleans Saints will take some getting used to.
"This is tough for me because you know I'm a Bears fan," he said. "Going to have to root for the Saints."
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