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William “Bill” Tate named first Black president in LSU and SEC history

Dr. William F. Tate IV was selected as president of Louisiana State University (LSU) on Thursday, becoming the first Black president of any school that is part of the Southeastern Conference. Tate is pictured in a photo provided by LSU on May 6, 2021. (Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College / Eddy Perez)
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Dr. William F. Tate IV was named the president of Louisiana State University (LSU) on Thursday, becoming the first Black president of a Southeastern Conference school.

Tate, the provost of the University of South Carolina, was selected by the school after beating out two other finalists for the job, University of Louisiana System President Dr. James B. Henderson and Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, a University of Oklahoma professor and meteorologist who served as a science adviser to former President Donald Trump.

“What I’m really most excited about is I met students here who really are amazing, and for me, this position is all about what we can do to help students and give people access and opportunity in higher education,” Tate said in a statement obtained by Newsweek.

“That’s really in my DNA, how do we help people regardless of their background – we find the money, get you here and give you the opportunity to live your dream,” he added. “I think there is no better place in the United States to come find your dream and to make it happen then right here at LSU.”

The historic nature of Tate’s selection did not go unnoticed by the LSU board. Emotion could be heard in the voice of board member Collis Temple, the first Black man to play varsity basketball for LSU, when he announced the board’s choice for new president. The decision came after the board debated for 90 minutes behind closed doors, according to The Advocate.

Tate has extensive qualifications for the role, with a long background as an educator and a list of academic accomplishments that include a Ph.D. in Mathematics Education from the University of Maryland. An initial list of 23 candidates for president was narrowed down to the three finalists, who were interviewed by the school over the past few days.

Tate is expected to take on the role in July and will replace current LSU President Tom Galligan, who became the university’s interim president in January 2020. When Tate becomes president, he will inherit a sexual misconduct scandal that has recently been raging at the school. LSU has been accused of mishandling multiple sexual assault complaints from female students, including a case that implicated two of the university’s former football players.

Tate previously faced criticism from students at the University of South Carolina over his own handling of a sexual misconduct scandal, according to The Advocate. Tate reportedly defended his response by noting that he dismissed a professor accused in the scandal and is “fully committed to remove” any faculty members with similar issues “whether you have tenure or not.”

“This is a very pivotal time at our university, from economic, environmental, social challenges, but we are doing great things at this place. From our academic achievements, our enrollment, our diversity, I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished,” LSU Board Chair Robert Dampf said. “We set about to find a great leader, and we found one.