Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens has been named as Kennesaw State University president Wednesday, by the Georgia Board of Regents. Students and faculty are rightfully angry over Olens’ anti-gay rights record and lack of experience.
Students and faculty are upset by Olens’ stance on marriage equality and transgender rights as attorney general. The GA Voice explains, “He famously decided to fight a Lambda Legal lawsuit challenging Georgia’s same-sex marriage ban in 2014, saying marriage equality is not a ‘fundamental right.’ And this May he joined Georgia with 10 other states in a lawsuit fighting the Obama administration’s protections for transgender students.”
More than a dozen students demonstrated at the Regents meeting, where Olens was formally being proposed, in protest. As the students protested, one student demanded “a nationwide search for a qualified candidate.” The students repeatedly shouted, “We must love each other and protect each other.” The board went into a five-minute recess, letting the students speak.
Students and faculty also demonstrated on campus. Scott Richie, a Kennesaw State faculty member, spoke out against the proposed appointment, saying,
“Sam Olens does not have an academic background, nor does he hold a doctorate. He would not be eligible to be a faculty member because of this. Olens was tapped to be appointed behind closed doors without input from faculty, staff, students, alumni, or community members. This threatens KSU’s overall accreditation as well as the accreditation of certain colleges such as education.”
Richie also pointed out that Olens’ stance on marriage equality and transgender rights threatens to undo years of progress Kennesaw State has made.
Despite the students’ and teachers’ objections, no other candidates were named. Typically, when the state is choosing a college president, a search committee is selected, finalists are chosen, a recommendation is made and the board decides.
The board went on with the vote yesterday, with Olens as the only candidate, and Olens was elected. Students are, predictably, feeling let down by this recent occasion of back room politics. The Regents Board went against protocol to select someone who has no higher education experience and is blatantly hostile to some students.