During the three forums from provost finalists, candidate Dr. Valerie Kinloch took stands and gave honest, genuine answers and should be our next provost.
The finalists for the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost position at USC are Dr. Donna Arnett, Dean of Public Health of the University of Kentucky, Dr. Valerie Kinloch, Dean of the College of Education at the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Sacha Kopp, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
The provost position is second in command to the President of the university. They administer the budget, oversee the schools and colleges and is the leader of all academic affairs.
The candidates visited the campus from March 20 through March 25 and participated in individual panels open to students, faculty and staff.
The forum began with the prompt; "based on what you know at this point about the University of South Carolina, in no more than 15 minutes, please articulate your vision for the future of university and discuss your top three strategic priorities if you were to be the next provost" — followed by a Q&A.
Arnett explained her academic background, providing her experience in the many positions that she will be overlooking to start her Q&A.
“As provost, you really have to know how to be in the rank and file with faculty to understand motivations and concerns, and the difficulties and challenges,” Arnett said.
She gave a clear outline of what disruptions she’s noticed in higher education that she will address if she is the Provost. She also gave her three specific goals, each with its own action steps: ignite student success, build academic and research excellence, and bring the lens of inclusive excellence to all provost activities.
While Arnett no doubt has the experience, her job as Dean of Public Health was just renewed for another six years. She'll have to choose between her previous job and this one. USC doesn't need any more false hope, especially after the presidential search resulted in someone jumping ship so far into the process before finding a president.
Kinloch took a very different approach than Arnett. She jumped right into her three overarching goals for the university. Throughout the presentation, Kinloch seemed confident that this job was hers.
She emphasized from the beginning that diversity, equity and inclusion will be implemented throughout everything she does.
Also different from Arnett, her goals were very broad and each had four-sub groups. Her first goal is to focus on students. She said it was important to prepare students for the working world.
The second goal is to focus on faculty, specifically faculty involvement and ensuring alignment.
The last goal is research and innovation, she wants to make sure the university has the infrastructure for funding throughout the campus.
She was very passionate about critical race theory, academic freedom and shared governance. We can’t have conversations about CRT without educating people and must be willing to have those hard conversations.
“I believe in academic freedom, I believe in academic integrity and I also believe that we have the right to explore these topics and issues in our curriculum in ways that don’t convince people to buy into what we want them to know or do or think, but that provide multiple perspectives for engaging in the world through ideas. And that should be a fundamental priority,” Kinloch said.
Kinloch was also open about talking to the student body and to faculty members about things that would benefit them. She said she would work with the university community regarding big issues on campus in response to being asked about the challenges of being a R1 and flagship university.
This is extremely important. Having someone who doesn't take others' help when it would both benefit them and the university is not someone we need in the Provost office. As students and faculty members, we know more about our needs and wants than the Provost would.
During his panel, Kopp said his goals for the university were growing research, space planning, state appropriations and fundraising, student enrollment, student completion and growing and supporting leadership.
Kopp is the only one of the three candidates with experience as provost, as well as dean of two colleges.
The aspect that differentiated Kopp from the other two candidates was his talk of past experience. Kopp took every question from the Q&A portion and answered it with past experiences, but failed to relate it back to how he would handle it as USC provost.
“As you might have imagined in Nebraska we are not immune from those very same questions as well,” Kopp said. “I’m not giving you a very good answer to your question other than to share with you, that yes, that’s happening in Nebraska too.”
Kopp also managed to dance around questions and never really gave straightforward answers. As a Provost, we need someone who is going to be honest with us. The Provost needs to be upfront about what they plan to do because their job directly affects students and faculty.
Kinloch didn’t rely on her past experience as much as the other candidates — she honed in on what she is going to do now.
As a Black woman from South Carolina, Kinloch relied heavily on her points about diversity, equity and inclusion, showing us how she would actually include them. But most importantly, she took stands. She stated plainly her support of academic freedom, CRT, Title IX and partnering with students to get our feedback. These are the kind of qualities USC needs in the next provost.
To watch the full forums click here.