Laurie Wilder, president of Parker Executive Search, the firm hired to help Kennesaw State University find its next president, speaks at a town hall meeting on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 at the university’s Kennesaw campus about the process. ERIC STIRGUS / ESTIRGUS@AJC.COM

KSU faculty, students want more transparency in presidential search

Several Kennesaw State University faculty members and students pressed at a town hall meeting Monday afternoon for greater transparency in the search for the school’s next president.

The hour-long meeting included pleas for the names of candidates and that top candidates visit KSU to meet students and faculty before a finalist is chosen by the Georgia Board of Regents.

Sam Olens resigned as KSU’s president earlier this month after a rocky 16-month tenure. Olens, who was Georgia’s attorney general before the Board of Regents hired him to lead KSU, was the only candidate for the job then. Olens did not meet with students and faculty before he was hired.

VIDEO: Previous coverage of this issue

Olens will step down as president as of Feb. 15, 2018.

Search committee members have thus far decided to keep the names of potential candidates confidential. Many who spoke at Monday’s meeting said more transparency is necessary, citing the process of Olens’ hiring.

The committee hopes to recommend finalists to the Board of Regents by May.

The high degree of concern about the process was evident as the first two speakers during the question-and-answer part of Monday’s meeting suggested KSU’s president had already been picked.

“Do I get to talk to (the finalist)?,” asked KSU senior Edmund Tella. “If we don’t get to do that, I can promise you they will have an uphill battle.”

Laurie Wilder, president of Parker Executive Search, the firm hired to help KSU find its next president, said many potential candidates will be reluctant to apply for the job if their names are shared with the public, for fear of jeopardizing their current employment status.

“If I am going to be exposed, I cannot be a candidate,” Wilder said she’s heard in other searches.

Others disagreed with Wilder, saying finalists for prior KSU presidential searches were hired for other jobs.

KSU management professor Doug Moodie, who chairs the presidential search and screen committee, said he would share the requests for names of candidates and other concerns with the Board of Regents.

KSU has undergone major changes in recent years, including the merger with Southern Polytechnic State University. It has about 35,000 students, the third-largest enrollment in Georgia.

Speakers at Monday’s meeting said they want a president with academic experience, a background in research, someone who’s done work engaging with minority communities and who has proven he or she can raise money.

About 40 people attended Monday’s meeting. A second town hall meeting is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at KSU’s Marietta campus.

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The AJC's Eric Stirgus keeps you updated on the latest happenings in higher education affecting metro Atlanta and Georgia. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

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