USC presidential finalist hits on college accessibility at public forum

The University of South Carolina held the second of four public forums for members of the public to meet with the school’s presidential finalists.

Tuesday’s finalist was William F. Tate, the dean of the graduate school and vice provost for graduate education at Washington University in St. Louis.

Finalist Robert L. Caslen Jr. will be on campus Wednesday, and John S. Applegate will arrive Thursday. The public session will all be held at 3:30 p.m. in the Program Room of the Ernest F. Hollings Library.

1.) Who is William F. Tate?

Tate is a people person.

As a former senior National Science Foundation researcher and former basketball, cross country and track coach, he often finds his most important lessons are learned talking to people and learning outside the classroom, he said.

“You matter to me. You’re not an abstraction to me,” Tate said during the morning session with students.

His first job was teaching math to K-12 students in Dallas, Texas (Originally he wanted to be an economist). There, he coached his first women’s team, which he said taught him an entirely new perspective on how to communicate with people.

“The best job I ever took in my life, the most important, was being the women’s basketball coach at Woodrow Wilson High School,” Tate said.

“I thought it was like men’s sports where you come in and run through a wall and beat the other teams,” Tate said. “Through these young ladies I learned to be a leader.”

2.) Vision for USC?

Tate separates undergraduate education into two, broad categories: the “Dos” and the “Don’ts.”

On one hand, the “Dos” are designed to let in as many people as possible and get more selective for masters programs, doctoral programs, etc.

The “Don’ts” are universities where sky-high admissions standards, tuition or otherwise “take pride in who they keep out,” Tate said.

For undergraduates, Tate wants USC to be more of the former.

For masters and doctoral students, he wants to focus on boosting research, especially in the medical field, and acquire more patents, an area in which USC has already shown progress.

3.) Best quote

“What’s great about this place is that it’s feasible... to open the doors of this institution to everyone in the state,” Tate said.

4.) What students are saying

“He answered all the questions as clearly as possible,” said Joy McMann, a senior public health major.

That was a recurring theme.

“He really answered all of my questions when I asked about transfer students,” said Yaunna Hunter, a junior marketing major. “I hope to go to the next two (forums). He’s the one so far.”

Sophia Johnson, who asked questions of both Monday’s candidate, Joseph “Jay” Walsh, and Tate, said she also found Tate to be more personable.

“I loved it,” Johnson, a sophomore public health major, said of Tate’s presentation. “He seemed very enthusiastic. He was thorough and engaging... he could be a good representative of the student body.”

5.) One size fits all

A student asked Tate whether his experience at Washington University, a school of roughly 15,000 students, would prepare him for USC, where the system-wide enrollment exceeds 51,000.

Tate brushed that off, saying the qualities needed to be an effective leader do not change because the institution is larger.

“There are a set of principles that guide leadership,” Tate said. “What does it matter if it’s Washington University or USC?”