Photo: Shreyas Saboo / The Daily Gamecock

A conversation with USC President Harris Pastides

University President Harris Pastides answered our questions about Parents Weekend and more ahead of this year's celebration.

THE DAILY GAMECOCK: We have Parents Weekend coming up. What is your favorite part of that weekend?

HARRIS PASTIDES: Parents Weekend is one of my favorite weekends of the year. For freshmen, it's often the first opportunity for the parents and the students to reengage, but also for sophomores, juniors and seniors, parents love this weekend. They get to fool themselves like they're really in college. They love the pool party, they love the concert, they love the football game, they love to come to the President's House, and seeing them have so much fun makes me have a lot of fun too.

TDG: And as a parent yourself, what advice would you maybe give to some of those parents of freshmen that haven't quite adjusted yet?

HP: Well, don't try to soak up every free minute of your student. Give them some downtime, and don't act like a student. I think a lot of the parents are trying to be their friends for that weekend. "Oh, let's all go out together. Let's have a good time tonight," and that often doesn't work. Have good meaningful time, go to the game together, go to the pool party, go to Bed Bath & Beyond, but then, at a certain time, you go off and let them go back to doing what they were doing.

TDG: When your kids were in school, did you guys get to go to Parents Weekend?

HP: Yes. Katherine went to Emory, and Andrew went to the University of North Carolina School for the Arts, and I found it hard to practice what I preach because I wanted to be with them every spare minute, too, but beyond that, the parents also get to sit in on classes and try to experience what it's like academically and meet their friends which is also very important, because you want to know who your son or daughter's friends are. We loved it, always did.

TDG: What activities maybe outside the university around Columbia would you recommend?

HP: I'll mention a few. The Soda City Market if it's Saturday morning. The Nickelodeon, I doubt they'll be free for an evening but the Nick. I love the arts theater in town. The Riverbanks Zoo, not everybody wants that, but it's a great way to walk around and get exercise. Walk through the Strom and look at that amazing palatial health and wellness center. Take a tour of our new law school or our new business school. There's so many great things to do.

TDG: One of the big questions people always ask is where to go to eat?

HP: I'll give you my [list] ... I like the Blue Marlin because it is southern-flavored, but the fish is always gonna be fresh and superb. Say what you want about any dishes, but the fish itself will always be good. Across the street there's Motor Supply. We like Hampton Street Vineyard, which is near the Museum, another great thing to do, and then there are even more casual places that one can go to. Bon Solon, which is a Thai place on Devine Street, and if I had to round it out, I would say go to Devine Foods for Greek food before they close down. They're about to close down.

TDG: Beyond Parents Weekend, what are some other resources the university offers for parents?

HP: Well, we have a parents council, which is a formal advisory body to me and to the university. Of course we have communication through parents newsletters. I send e-blasts, mainly to you but they also get sent to the parents as well. There are a plethora of ways for parents to be involved and connected, and I think you know, you wanna be, what I would use, the word "engaged" without hovering. We've heard about helicopter parents who, the student might get a bad grade or get sick, and [the parents] are the ones calling the university or even the professor. Bad idea ... Advise your student to go see the professor or to make the call themselves. They're out of college and what, you're going to do the same thing for them? At some point that's not the right thing to do.

TDG: Obviously, a lot of parents have done their research on the university when they get here with their sending their kids off for the first time, but what's maybe something they don't know about you?

HP: Well, they probably do, but if they don't know that I love more than anything, any other part of my job ... being with students. ... Not like hang out, like, I don't go to the dorms and say "What are we gonna do tonight," but, you know, a chance encounter, taking a picture together, a high five, being a little informal with them. I did a "slam" earlier this week and, you know, [using] Twitter, [attending] athletic events. Once I went to a basketball game, and students had a cutout head of me. That was one of my all time both embarrassing and most fun things that ever happened, and beyond that, what might they like to know? I kind of have an open-door policy. I don't think there's a student who ever asked me for a meeting ... that I've ever said "no" to.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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