Olens not ‘el­i­gi­ble to be a fac­ulty mem­ber’

GA Voice - - Georgianews -

Ken­ne­saw State Univer­sity ap­pears poised to name Ge­or­gia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Sam Olens to re­place Dan Papp as school pres­i­dent, a move that’s drawn protest from stu­dents and fac­ulty up­set over his LGBT rights record.

But the At­lanta Busi­ness Chron­i­cle re­ported on Sept. 27 that the move was a done deal af­ter months of ru­mors swirling around the Capi­tol. And an AJC report on Oct. 4 said that Olens was in­deed the only can­di­date for the po­si­tion. The state Board of Re­gents was sched­uled to vote on the mat­ter on Oct. 12 and the re­sults were not avail­able as of press time.

Stu­dents and fac­ulty are up­set not only by the lack of in­put on the mat­ter from ei­ther group, but also by Olens’ stances on mar­riage equal­ity and trans­gen­der rights as at­tor­ney gen­eral. 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.

Stu­dents cre­ate pe­ti­tion, on-cam­pus rally

For Lane Hunter, a cur­rent KSU stu­dent who is trans­gen­der, the op­po­si­tion to Olens be­com­ing pres­i­dent is pri­mar­ily about ex­pe­ri­ence, fol­lowed by his LGBT rights record.

“We do not want or need a politi­cian in of­fice,” Hunter tells the Ge­or­gia Voice. “We need an ed­u­ca­tor with man­age­rial ex­pe­ri­ence and higher ed­u­ca­tion ex­pe­ri­ence, and one who is ac­cept­ing of all stu­dents.”

Hunter, along with trans­gen­der KSU alum­nus Sarah Rose, cre­ated an on­line pe­ti­tion in re­sponse to the news about Olens, de­mand­ing a na­tional search be con­ducted to fill the po­si­tion. The pe­ti­tion has gar­nered over 16,000 sup­port­ers as of press time.

Oc­to­ber 14, 2016

Hunter holds out hope that Hous­ton Davis will re­main as in­terim school pres­i­dent while a search is done.

“Olens is wel­come to ap­ply as well, and if he hap­pens to be the best can­di­date, so be it. But now he’s not even a ‘can­di­date,’” Hunter says. “He’s be­ing moved to this po­si­tion. He has done ab­so­lutely noth­ing to de­serve it.”

Rose and Jessica Fisher, a trans­gen­der KSU stu­dent, also or­ga­nized an Oct. 4 on-cam­pus protest against the move.

Scott Ritchie, a queer KSU fac­ulty mem­ber, echoes Hunter’s con­cerns about Olens’ back­ground and LGBT record.

“All 28 pub­lic col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in Ge­or­gia have a pres­i­dent with an aca­demic back­ground. Each pres­i­dent holds a doc­tor­ate and is qual­i­fied to be a fac­ulty mem­ber at his/her in­sti­tu­tion. The vast ma­jor­ity of these pres­i­dents went through a hir­ing process that in­cluded a na­tional search. Those that did not served first as in­terim pres­i­dent and then were ap­pointed,” Ritchie tells the Ge­or­gia Voice. “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.”

Ritchie adds that Olens’ law­suit against the trans­gen­der direc­tive and op­po­si­tion to same-sex mar­riage puts in dan­ger the strides the school has made re­gard­ing LGBT rights, in­clud­ing hav­ing a pres­i­den­tial com­mis­sion on LGBT ini­tia­tives (which Olens would

By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS

over­see as pres­i­dent) and be­ing the first univer­sity in Ge­or­gia to have gen­der neu­tral cam­pus hous­ing.

“I have heard from over 300 full-time fac­ulty who are op­posed to Olens’ ap­point­ment. When the fac­ulty sen­ate re­cently polled de­part­ments whether they be­lieve the Board of Re­gents should con­duct a na­tional search, over 25 de­part­ments con­ducted the poll. Each depart­ment polled re­ported that the ma­jor­ity of fac­ulty said yes,” says Ritchie, who is the pro­fes­sional li­ai­son for di­ver­sity at the school’s Col­lege of Ed­u­ca­tion. “Over 50 fac­ulty and ad­min­is­tra­tors at­tended the stu­dent rally ... to show sup­port for LGBTQ stu­dents. I sup­port the stu­dents’ ef­forts and will con­tinue to work with them as we move for­ward.”

For now, Ritchie, Hunter and other LGBT stu­dents, fac­ulty and al­lies can only wait in an­tic­i­pa­tion of what the Board of Re­gents de­cides on the mat­ter on Oct. 12.

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