Sam Olens is sole candidate to lead Kennesaw State University. Is this any way to choose a president?

Kennesaw State University and Georgia’s other public campuses are economic engines for their areas and the state.

In recommending state Attorney General Sam Olens as the next president of Kennesaw State University, Chancellor Hank Huckaby cited Olens’ deep roots in Cobb.

“He knows Cobb County so well and he’s been a very dedicated citizen of this community,” Huckaby told the AJC.

I don’t know what kind of college president Olens will be or whether he possesses the vision to build on Kennesaw’s momentum and growth.

Sam Olens

Sam Olens

However, I question why Huckaby believes Olens is qualified because he lives in Cobb and loves the county. That might qualify Olens to lead a chamber of commerce in Cobb or a parade, but does it qualify him to lead a 35,000-student university?

Huckaby and the Board of Regents ought to offer a far more comprehensive argument for eschewing a national search in favor of a politician without any higher ed experience.

My AJC colleague Jim Galloway has an excellent piece about the politics of this move:

With Nathan Deal’s seal of approval, the Board of Regents – whose members are all appointed by the governor — will take up the matter next week.

Olens’ selection would put an end to his 17-year GOP electoral career, slamming the lid on all speculation of a 2018 run for governor. At the same time, it would give Olens, 59, permanent standing in his beloved Cobb County community, shorten his daily commute considerably, and produce a significant increase in his take-home pay.

The attorney general’s current salary is almost $140,000 per annum. The 2016 pay package for Dan Papp, whom Olens would replace, was $362,740.

Olens continues to be a controversial choice among some faculty and students, including professor Leonard Witt. In 2008, Witt was named an Eminent Scholar by the Board of Regents and was awarded the Distinguished Service Award for Kennesaw State University.

In this piece, Witt shares his concerns about the lack of a national search.

By Leonard Witt

University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby has made it official, Sam Olens will be the only candidate brought before the Board of Regents for a vote. No women nor minorities need apply.

Huckaby’s decision is wrong on many levels, and now it’s up to the Regents itself to demand a national search, composed of an impartial, highly regarded search committee that cannot be impinged for its decision. It’s the right thing to do for all of Georgia’s women and minorities.

The Olens vote is scheduled for Oct. 12.  If they vote in Sam Olens, the BOR which is 90 percent white and 90 percent male, will flaunt the power of white male privilege—and political cronyism—thus leaving out all the well qualified women, minorities and any other protected groups who have labored long in the Georgia system of higher learning and who have earned and deserve a chance to apply for this important and esteemed job.

The BOR consists of 15 white males, two white women, one African-American male and one Asian-Indian male.

Our first instinct is to ask why the two people of color and two white women don’t speak up but that is wrong. The onus is on the 15 white males to do the right things to honor their wives, daughters, granddaughters, sisters and all the thousands of women, minorities and yes, the other white males, who work in the USG, but who are being denied a chance to be selected for this important position. This is a university system with more than 300,000 students of which more than 50 percent are females and almost 50 percent are people of color.

If this secretive, mostly white and male fraternity, votes for a lone white male candidate they will be on the wrong side of history – in a state that has been on the wrong side so often before.  Here perhaps is the most apropos example. It’s 1941, Eugene Talmadge is the hateful, racist governor of Georgia. He got word that a university dean and a president favored integration. He tells the BOR to fire them, they refuse. He reshuffles BOR members and then has these new cronies fire the president and dean. There is one problem, the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges accrediting body jumps in and pulls the accreditation of 10 Georgia institutions of higher learning. Their diplomas are worth nothing. The voters take notice and kick Talmadge out of office.

Now turn the clock forward to 1981, Betty Siegel is among multiple candidates vying to be the new president of KSU. Students, faculty, alumni, donors and community members are all in the interviewing mix. Betty Siegel is the chosen candidate. She serves KSU for 25 years and is one of the most esteemed women university presidents in the world. She moves KSU, which could have been a backwater, old-boy run school, into a world-class institution. She is respected across the country and around the worldwide. Of course, now that it is a worldwide connected school it no longer is just the provenance of Cobb County or the state of Georgia. Too many people from all over the world as faculty, students, alumni, donors, cooperating academic partners and corporations now have a vested interest in Kennesaw State University.

With that comes responsibility to ensure all its diverse stakeholders are treated as equals. A secret cabal that is 90 percent male and 90 percent white, needs to understand the hurt its actions do to all aspiring women and minorities. BOR members you can demonstrate human decency; tell Chancellor Huckaby you want to think this out, to have time to hear from the women and minorities who were skipped over and thus can no longer trust this fixed, white-male dominated system—nor should they if the BOR unilaterally picks yet another white male crony all behind closed doors.

The Regents have choices: one that affirms white privilege in an underhanded way the despicable Eugene Talmadge would have fully endorsed or one that reaffirms the work of Betty Siegel and the power of an open search that lets every qualified man and woman have a shot at being the next KSU president in a process based on their merits and not on political machinations. Pick your place in history, the world is watching.

 

Reader Comments 0

89 comments
b-org
b-org

I wonder if this appointment in anyway violates SACS accreditation.

Tom Green
Tom Green

Not sure about playing the race and gender cards on this one; the president should be the most qualified person who can lead the university into the future, not a political hack.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

Has anyone noticed the number of repub state legislators and department heads that are put in jobs in state government and on state boards. This provides them a steady income plus benefits like healthcare and retirement funds. If they run for office they get limited pay and benefits, but this increases their take long term. See the pay for KSU head!

Jay how about a editorial and a listing of these people and their past jobs and new jobs and salaries and benefits. Not only do the repubs want to gerrymander districts to ensure they are elected, but now they want to take over state government department/ board by dept/ board!

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@RoadScholar  Research history under Democratic administrations and you will find exactly the same. The faces change but the practices do not.

newsphile
newsphile

@BurroughstonBroch @RoadScholar While I agree that the practices are the same by both parties, this governor seems to be more actively moving forward.  He's pushed through creating two new judges, strong arming this KSU presidential appointment, pulling out all the stops to create another state school superintendent who would report directly to him.  He's pulled several other departments and portions of departments to report directly to him.  All of these have given more places to put his friends than previous governors have had.  If you pull back the layers, you will note that Deal is personally benefitting or has already personally benefitted by most of these appointments.  Very few of Deal's appointees are qualified for the jobs for which they have been appointed.  GA politics are rotten to the core.

stephen howe
stephen howe

Surely the Board of Regents must launch a nationwide, multimillion dollar, year-long search to select one of the many, qualified, rabidly marxist candidates out there to head up KSU? One that despises our Constitution & Bill of Rights at least as much as Obama? We taxpayers should expect no less of a role model to lead these innocent, hapless college students through matriculation and encourage their use of whichever restroom best suits their needs, at least for the time being?


Wait! Hillary Clinton will need something else to occupy her time come December. Assuming her delicate health will allow her appointment, shouldn't we DEMAND that she be awarded this position, even though it would entail a substantial pay-cut for her?

ShutYourMouth
ShutYourMouth

This isn't about the next governor, people. This is all about Josh McKoon, and making sure he doesn't get near the AG's office so he can come after Deal. Deal wants Chris Carr as AG so Deal can retire in peace without Josh McKoon putting half the department on investigating Deal's shady business. This has nothing to do with getting Olens out of the Governor's race.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

I'll call Deal. McKoon has more skeletons in his closet than a Halloween supply store.

TaxiSmith
TaxiSmith

With the combination of the food service scandal at KSU and this lack of due diligence necessary in hiring a professional educator, I have no confidence in that college and would not send my dog there. By the way, I lived in Cobb County for almost eighteen years. That should qualify me for a professorship in BS at KSU.

hnbc
hnbc

Governor Deal has a lot to answer for this, I suspect. He is maneuvering Sam Oleans out of the way of a potential 2018 run for governor because he has his preferred candidate in mind. Not sure who that might be but my guess is Cagle.

It's inconceivable that the Board of Regents are refusing to conduct a nation-wide search for KSU, one of largest and strongest schools in the University System. They owe their jobs to Deal and he's probably told them it's payback time.

Shame on all of them.

newsphile
newsphile

Take note of how this plays out.  This is the way OSD will be run.  Another of Deal's political supporters will be given the title of superintendent of OSD with a big salary and a chance to work a few years and probably double-dip retirement from GA taxpayers.  Qualifications are the last thing considered when a politician is controlling these positions. 

Michael2255
Michael2255

@newsphile Just look at the agency heads and the dopes put in the judiciary the past 10 years.  If you want a top paying job then just contribute to the Georgia Republican Party.  $60k and up, please.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

I note that most of the posters so far are either KSU alumni/insiders or business outsiders who seem to think a college President is just the same as a corporate CEO. But, as a retired professor from  one of the USG research universities,I can tell you that I am horrified that: 1) there is no national search for such a position, 2) a politician without any academic administrative experience is forced upon the KSU community as its President, and 3) this particular politician is chosen with his controversial background as a strong, announced opponent of now-legal same sex marriage. 


I expect that one private consideration for Mr. Olens in taking this job is the cushy deal he will have with the Teachers Retirement Services (TRS). After reaching 60 (he is 59 now) and 5 years on the job (so he is vested), he can retire and get 20% of whatever salary he then receives as his pension. On top of the pension he will be due as former AG and state employee.  Sweet!

BKinGA
BKinGA

@OriginalProf  This would never be accepted at Tech or UGA, so why KSU? I am shocked at the lack of a search. Even a regional one if cost is a factor for not doing a national search. How many deans and VPs at other USG institutions are well qualified but will now see no chance of advancement because these positions have become politicized? I've supported Deal in the past, but this one does not pass the smell test.  

Ychromosome
Ychromosome

Ah, the GOP party of fiscal responsibility -to themselves.

newsphile
newsphile

@OriginalProf You are so right.  This is yet another example of Deal's putting his supporters in high paying positions for which they are unqualified and enabling them to double-dip from the taxpayers' funds.  There is no regard for getting the most qualified president for KSU.  It's all about feathering the nests of Deal's friends.  I can't believe how many seemingly-educated people are falling for this.

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

Sam Olens will make a great President of KSU.  The school needs a steady and firm hand at the tiller at a point where it's still digesting a merger and, probably, too much money too fast -- from scholarships and otherwise --for proper governance to have accompanied it.. 


Too much scholarship money sloshing around -- a bygone era --  led to too many students taking too long to graduate or not graduating at all, while accumulating student loans that they will have trouble paying.   All those academically-pedigreed administrators allowed that to happen, somehow.   Among those tasked with watching the store, it was "Laissez les bons temps rouler!" atop an income stream that was unsustainable.  Weeee.......!  Free money!


We probably need fewer career academics and more academically well-qualified professionals with real-world accomplishments at the helm of more of GA's bread and butter schools.  


The AG has two graduate degrees, so he's no academic bumpkin, either.    He's also got cred in the areas of human trafficking and juvenile justice that most of his critics know nothing about while they focus on lavatory politics with ideological zeal.  There are plenty of other accomplishments as AG, as well.   Good attorneys are no slouches in the area of dealing with theoretical concepts in a logical manner to arrive at practical outcomes, something those looking down from ivory towers often fail to appreciate.


Olens also strikes me as being well-positioned to increase the school's endowment to a respectable level over the long run, which in GA seems to an underappreciated aspect of a state university president's job. 

newsphile
newsphile

@Carlos_Castillo "too much free money".  You're right about that part, but wrong about who is getting all the free money.  Olens and many, many of Deal's cronies are taking taxpayers to the cleaners with all their double-dipping.  They are the biggest freeloaders in GA.

newsphile
newsphile

@larietta @newsphile @Carlos_Castillo If Olens accepts the presidency of KSU, he is very guilty of this.  He does not have the experience nor the expertise to run a large university, and he will be double-dipping.  He can prove me wrong by not taking the job.  Otherwise, he is just another unethical politician.

OldAtlanta
OldAtlanta

All I see is Olens out of the running for Governor. Deal stacks the cards to help those he wants to see succeed him. Like the twitt who is Lt Gov. He's paid his dues for a couple of years, maybe he will be rewarded.

newsphile
newsphile

@OldAtlanta Spot on.  It's been a long, long time since GA has had a more power-hungry governor than Deal.

ShutYourMouth
ShutYourMouth

Also, all you SPSU bitter clingers need to stop wearing your Hornet crap to football games. Buy some KSU gear or stay home.

Wes30144
Wes30144

@ShutYourMouth  You got that right, Big Chicken Technical College is gone, they need to to get over it.

larietta
larietta

@ShutYourMouth Getting another HS diploma level degree from KSU and tell an engineering student to get over working hard taking actually tough courses and being proud of their work!?!  Would have loved to see you in a Thermo, Diff EQ, Quant. Mechanics, or Org Chem class...



vikramb92
vikramb92

KSU deserves what it gets being one of the most corrupt and inefficient universities I have sadly come know after my school Southern Poly was merged into KSU.  The recent revelation that our former president double dipped on his retirement fund along with the millions of dollars worth of corruption in the Auxiliary services and Dining services further prove the fact of corruption. Students now have issues from signing up from housing, signing up for classes, registering for parking, and any question students have is sent up the bureaucratic nightmare KSU has set up for student services with many offices not even available on our campus. The worst part is all this has a terrible effect on academics, and our competition teams that actually apply academics such as engineering to compete with other schools have barely any funds with a good chunk of funds being "misplaced". Honestly if the board of regents cared about the students the KSU would be split and services brought back to our campus. We were even taking a liking to our interim president who actually came to the academic buildings and asked us about our concerns with out a posse of administrators patting themselves on the back for a "great job" they have done like the former president did. KSU protesters need to realize the board of regents don't care about their voice just as they didn't care about the SPSU voice. The Board of regents operates under the "good ol' boy" system, and I just hope this Sam Olens isn't corrupt as the previous guy.

ShutYourMouth
ShutYourMouth

@vikramb92 Whine some more pal. As I've already said, Poly was going away one way or another, and you can thank your school admins, particularly Lisa Rossbacher, for that. She neglected her duties to forge relationships at the BOR and at the Capitol. And it cost SPSU their independence. Don't get bitter with KSU. If it weren't for KSU, your campus in Marietta would be an office park right now. You know why KSU has been on the rise for the last 30 years? Betty Siegel went to the Capitol and played the game. And it paid off for KSU. She worked the 'good ole' boy' system. Rossbacher did not. So save your vitriol for your SPSU admins who let your school sink.

newsphile
newsphile

@ShutYourMouth @vikramb92 While Betty was working the game, she wasn't stealing the system blind.  She was actually working for KSU, a rarity it seems.

ShutYourMouth
ShutYourMouth

@vikramb92 @ShutYourMouth "Yes SPSU didn't play politics that well" and you see where it got you bub. Do I think it's right? No. But that's how the game is played. And if you don't play - and Rossbacher didn't - then you're going to get left behind.

vikramb92
vikramb92

@ShutYourMouth @vikramb92 Look at the other response I gave to one of your posts. The SPSU administration was more concentrated on education and broke the Georgia Tech  Engineering monopoly for the whole state and actually expanded the facilities available for applied academics such as labs. Yes SPSU didn't play politics that well, unlike KSU which markets itself like crazy and always has state politicians over while ignoring students and their education. If the success of university is determined by how well it plays politics opposed to how well it educates it students we are heading towards some real dark times.

ShutYourMouth
ShutYourMouth

Hey if you folks want to complain, save it for Nathan Deal. Sam was not planning on running for AG again. Josh McKoon has all but announced he wants to run for AG, and this terrifies Deal. He doesn't want McKoon investigating him and his corrupt cronies. So what does he do? He gets Sam preference for the KSU job, which allows Deal to appoint a new, friendly AG who can then run in 2018 as an incumbent, effectively shutting out McKoon.


I don't necessarily fault Sam for taking advantage of the situation. Deal is the root cause here.

newsphile
newsphile

@ShutYourMouth I agree that Deal is the root cause.  Complete lack of ethics is part of the man's dna.

EliasDenny
EliasDenny

Does any of our tax money go to this school? If so then I object to this shallow excuse to hire a buddy for a very important job. 

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

A university president today is the university's public face and chief fund raiser. Olens fits that need.

The Board of Regents has some major cleanup to do at KSU and they want a steady hand at the head. This is similar to the cleanup at Georgia Perimeter College that was accomplished by merging it into KSU.

The Board of Regents does not want to air their dirty linen in public.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@BurroughstonBroch Chief fund raiser is a tiny part of being a president of a university.  For God's sake, the man is just a LAWYER!

An American Patriot
An American Patriot

So, here we go again.  It all comes down to Racism.  You know folks, political correctness is killing our country and racism is leading the way.  I don't live in Cobb County so this shouldn't matter to me; however,this scenario could play out anywhere in Georgia.  If it's all going to be about racism, then we all have a very big problem of not being able to work out anything because of the white/black thing.


I don't have any sayso but, as far as I'm concerned Mr. Olens is an outstanding Georgia Attorney General and it is my contention that anyone who can manage a high profile state government such as that is perfectly capable of managing KSU.  He has a proven record of results and that's what we want to see out of our public officials.For gosh sakes, folks, he should be given a chance. 

larietta
larietta

@Kel Ann You are so full of shi+, your eyes are brown.  Check out his results during his terms as Cobb Co commissioner and chairman, his work as an attorney, and finally as the state AG.  Your ignorance is deafening.  Running the operations of a $MM dollar county qualifies him to run a university with a budget and population 30 times SMALLER. I have known Mr. Olens for DECADES, and can attest to this. 

An American Patriot
An American Patriot

@Wascatlady @An American Patriot You know, Ms. Catlady, you and I have never agreed on the first single thing and probably never will.  I meant everyword I said about the subject.  I have every confidence that Mr. Olens will do an outstanding job as President of KSU despite the fact "he's an attorney".  That's the "Only" thing I care about in regard to his candidacy.  And in regard to your comment, there are university presidents all over the Great State of Georgia that should not be in their positions, I'm sure.  Shouldn't they be "fired"?  

Kel Ann
Kel Ann

He's had no experience or accomplishments that make him viable for university president. This move is 100% political cronyism. Period.

ShutYourMouth
ShutYourMouth

"White privilege..."? Maureen and Professor Witt do know Sam is Jewish, right?

ShutYourMouth
ShutYourMouth

@OriginalProf @ShutYourMouth And also: No, Einstein, not all Jews are 'white.' My Ethiopean Jewish friend begs to differ with you, as do some Moroccan Jews I know, and that's just for starters. You do know there are Chinese Jews too right?