Sam Olens to leave Kennesaw State University


Sam Olens announced Thursday he’s stepping down as Kennesaw State University’s president on Feb. 15, after mounting criticism of his handling of a protest by some cheerleaders and other decisions.

A state report released last month found Olens ignored guidelines on how to respond to student protests concerning the national anthem. The report was done after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained text messages that suggested Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren and state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, pressured Olens to make changes that prevented such protests.

The AJC first reported last week that Olens was considering leaving KSU as some groups, like the Cobb County Southern Christian Leadership Conference, demanded he resign.

The Georgia Board of Regents said in a statement it will conduct a national search for Olens’ replacement, a step they did not take when it voted to hire him in November 2016. He was the lone candidate for the job, to the dismay of many KSU faculty and students. Olens’ supporters cited his resume - former Georgia Attorney General and chairman of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners - as qualifications for him being the perfect candidate for the job.

Ken Harmon, KSU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, will become the university’s interim president.

Olens noted in a letter to students and staff that he was a “non-traditional candidate” for the job and that unspecified “challenges to the institution” made for a difficult start. Still, Olens said there were positive changes made during his tenure, such as a new admissions model and programs to help at-risk students.

“While I view this transition as the best course of action for the University, I do so with the realization that I will miss working on behalf of the students at KSU who have the potential to do remarkable things and serve as tomorrow’s leaders,” Olens wrote.

Olens’ letter did not explain why he was resigning. Critics said Olens made a series of missteps, such as removing the phrase “social justice” from some faculty job descriptions and plans to end its Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality degree, two years after receiving the largest single donor gift in the university’s history for the program.

Faculty members asked Olens to answer an array of written questions about the protest and other campus issues. They also wanted a forum to discuss their concerns.KSU professor Susan Raines, one of three faculty members who filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission objecting to the way Olens was hired, said she hopes his departure will bring about greater transparency on campus.

“We hope that his departure will begin the process of restoring shared governance, reduce the flight of top notch faculty and administrators, and return legitimacy to campus decision-making,” she said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Education

Snow days don’t mean extra days later for most metro students
Snow days don’t mean extra days later for most metro students

Most students in metro Atlanta have missed a week or more of classroom time due to weather this school year, but few have to make up any of it. Nearly every school district has a waiver from the state requirement of a minimum of 180 classroom days. And some, including Gwinnett and Forsyth counties, are keeping their students on track with the internet...
Whoops! Atlanta reverses decision to open schools Friday
Whoops! Atlanta reverses decision to open schools Friday

Atlanta Public Schools has changed its decision about re-opening Friday, determining that the roads are still too unsafe to travel. On Thursday afternoon, the district had announced that it would re-open after two days of being closed. But after 6:30 p.m., the district released this statement: “Atlanta Public Schools was hopeful that we would...
North metro Atlanta school district decides to re-open Friday
North metro Atlanta school district decides to re-open Friday

Forsyth County Schools will re-open Friday after two days of being closed due to treacherous road conditions. Atlanta Public Schools have already announced they’ll open, while Clayton County will remain closed. Other districts, including big ones like Gwinnett and Cobb counties, are still weighing what to do. But the decision announced after...
Clayton County Schools will remain closed Friday
Clayton County Schools will remain closed Friday

Clayton County Schools officials said school will remain closed Friday due to icy conditions. Schools have been closed since Wednesday after snow begin falling late Tuesday night.  “We recognize our school buses mostly travel on secondary and housing development roads and streets,” Superintendent Morcease Beasley said in a statement...
How and when should Atlanta schools make up snow days? APS reviews 6 options
How and when should Atlanta schools make up snow days? APS reviews 6 options

Atlanta Public Schools wants parents to help solve a big conundrum: How should the district make up snow days?After two snow days this week, the number of days the school district has lost this school year to inclement weather -- from snow, ice or Tropical Storm Irma -- now adds up to six. Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, in a Thursday blog post,...
More Stories