KSU students protest at Regents meeting

Photo by Sara Schmitt

Students from Kennesaw State University (KSU) briefly interrupted Oct. 12’s Board of Regents meeting to protest the expected appointment of Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens to KSU’s
vacant presidency.

Many students stood up as the meeting began and shouted that there had been no adequate search process for someone to fill the position. Further concerns about Olens’ appointment were expressed by way of pre-written statements ready aloud by protestors. State police, who are regularly present at Regents meetings, were unable to contain the protestors as they had apparently scattered themselves throughout the audience strategically.

“Attorney General Sam Olens … consistently perpetuates violent language against the LGBT community,” said a student protestor in attendance. “We demand a nationwide search for a qualified president, one who does not perpetuate the violence of homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, racism and Zionism.”

Protestors from Georgia State University were also present, expressing concerns that the school’s recent acquisition of Turner Field was going to damage the existing community living nearby.

The meeting went into an abrupt five-minute recess as both groups of protestors exited, chanting “we have nothing to lose but our chains” and “we must love each other and protect each other.” The group was escorted out by police, though it appears that no arrests were made and no further confrontation occurred.

Moments later, the Board voted to confirm Olens’ appointment. Though he was not in attendance at the meeting, Olens later released a statement indicating he was “honored” to receive the position and will work with “students, faculty and staff … [to] continue to make KSU a leading university.”

Olens was first elected as Attorney General in 2010 and won reelection in 2014. Before running for elected office, Olens served on the Cobb County Board of Commissioners as director, and before that as a commissioner. He has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in international affairs and a juris doctor from Emory University. Olens was one of 16 state attorney generals who petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to allow restrictions on same-sex marriage in 2015. On the petition’s dismissal, Olens stated that Georgia must adhere to federal law.

Previous KSU president Dan Papp retired in June 2016, after 10 years in the position. An executive compensation review conducted by the University System of Georgia (USG) concluded that Papp had improperly received nearly $600,000 in deferred compensation, which typically must be paid out when a president departs the USG and with the approval of the Board of Regents or chancellor. The report further noted that Papp had not committed any legal wrongdoing by receiving money that was technically his. This information became public three weeks after the announcement of Papp’s retirement, though Papp had stated he was not asked to step down.