Target:
Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia
Region:
United States of America

*UPDATE* The USG Board of Regents met on Wednesday 10/12 and approved Sam Olens as President of Kennesaw State to start on November 1st. We will keep this petition open and encourage signers to include their rank and institutional affiliation in the comments.

This petition from university faculty is directed to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. The Chancellor of the University System, Hank Huckaby, has recommended the current state Attorney General, Sam Olens, for the presidency of Kennesaw State Univesity without having had a search for the position. We ask university faculty and other interested parties from across the United States to sign this petition in defense of shared governance at Kennesaw State, and in the wider University System of Georgia.



Important instruction to signers:
If you are a college or university faculty member, please include your academic rank and institutional affiliation in the comment box when you sign.

Thank you!


To the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia,

We write as college and university faculty concerned about the future of Kennesaw State University’s and the University System of Georgia’s national reputation for independence, academic freedom, and shared governance. Foregoing a national search, system Chancellor Hank Huckaby has recommended that you appoint Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens to the presidency of Kennesaw State University. We urge the board to reject this recommendation and initiate a national search for the reasons stated below.

In 1943, the State of Georgia passed a constitutional amendment to free the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia from the direct control of the state’s Governor and General Assembly. This amendment was passed as a result of a crisis in governance known in Georgia as the “Cocking Affair” when Governor Eugene Talmadge’s firing of a College Dean accused of implementing racial integration of a campus, and subsequent attempts to fire members of the Board of Regents, led to the loss of the accreditation of Georgia’s colleges and universities after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) found “gross political interference” in the running of Georgia’s state university system.

As part of the Board’s independence from partisan political control, and in alignment with national principles of shared governance involving university faculty in the process of choosing presidents, the Georgia Board of Regents Policy Manual, section 2.2., describes the procedures for the creation of an institutional search committee and the initiation of a national search for a university president when a vacancy occurs. According to this policy, “The committee shall be composed of representatives of the faculty, alumni, foundation, students, and the community. Faculty shall compose the largest number of institutional members of the committee. Except as provided below, the chancellor shall name a faculty member as the chair of the institutional search committee.” (http://www.usg.edu/policymanual/section2/C307)

The Board of Regents is also a member of the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities (AGB), which in 1966 signed on to the American Association of University Professors’ “Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities,” which declares that “Joint effort of a most critical kind must be taken when an institution chooses a new president. The selection of a chief administrative officer should follow upon a cooperative search by the governing board and the faculty, taking into consideration the opinions of others who are appropriately interested.” (https://www.aaup.org/report/statement-government-colleges-and-universities)

As these guidelines have not been followed, today we find ourselves in a moment when the independence of the Board of Regents and our state universities from partisan political control is again in question. Since June, Georgia newspapers have been reporting that Governor Nathan Deal planned to “appoint” the current Attorney General, Sam Olens, to the presidency of Kennesaw State University. The faculty of Kennesaw State has been calling for the initiation of a national search for the presidency since rumors began to circulate, but Governor Deal, Sam Olens, and the University System of Georgia’s chancellor, Hank Huckaby, have declined to comment. On October 3rd, 2016, faculty, students and staff received an email from Chancellor Huckaby announcing that Sam Olens would be interviewed for Kennesaw’s presidency the following day. On October 4th, we learned that the Board’s Executive and Compensation Committee had recommended Olens to the full board, and that the Board was set to vote on his appointment October 12, 2016.

In the absence of a national search or even the formation of a search committee, there were no other candidates, and no faculty, student, alumni, or community representation in the decision. While it is Chancellor Huckaby who made the official recommendation of Attorney General Olens to the Board of Regents, it is difficult not to conclude that the Governor Nathan Deal is engaging in “gross political interference” in university governance in Georgia, with the presidency of a state university serving as a political patronage position for a partisan elected official.

The implications of such an action are grave. Not only has there been a lack of shared governance in this case, but the appointment of a partisan political actor who lacks any background in university teaching or governance to the presidency of a state university is deeply troubling. In his role as the Attorney General, Olens has taken controversial partisan positions on a number of issues that have a direct impact on the campus community, including positions on marriage equality, the rights of transgender students, and the Affordable Care Act. Faculty, students and staff have reason to be concerned that this presidential appointment represents an effort to remake Kennesaw State University according to the vision of the state’s GOP establishment.

As concerned university faculty from Kennesaw State as well as from other institutions of higher education in the United States, we urge you to reject the Chancellor’s recommendation to appoint Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens to become the president of Kennesaw State University. Please initiate the process for a national search for Kennesaw’s new president, following the procedures described in the Georgia Board of Regents’ Policy Manual and the AAUP “Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities.”

Initial Signatories:

Howard Brick
Louis Evans Chair in U.S. History
University of Michigan

Rachel Buff
Professor of History
Univeristy of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Marjorie Economopoulos
Professor Emerita, and former Chair
Department of Secondary & Middle Grades Education
Kennesaw State University

Linda Shuford Evans
Associate Professor, TESOL
Kennesaw State University

Volker Franke
Professor of Conflict Management
Kennesaw State University

Rebecca Hill
Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies
Kennesaw State University

Robin D.G. Kelley
Gary B. Nash Chair in U.S. History
University of California, Los Angeles

Robbie Lieberman, Chair
Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
Kennesaw State University

Keisha Love, Chair
Department of Psychology
Kennesaw State University

Nancy MacLean
William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy
Duke University

Carol Mason
Professor and Chair, Gender and Women’s Studies
University of Kentucky

Sheila Smith McKoy, Chair
Department of English
Kennesaw State University

David R. Papke
Professor of Law
Marquette University

David B. Parker
Professor of History
Kennesaw State University

Randall Patton
Professor of History
Kennesaw State University

Paula Rabinowitz
Professor Emerita, Department of English
University of Minnesota
Editor-in-Chief, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature

David R. Roediger
Foundation Professor of American Studies
University of Kansas

Judith E. Smith
Professor of American Studies
University of Massachusetts, Boston

Susan Kirkpatrick Smith, Chair
Department of Geography and Anthropology
Kennesaw State University

Susan Stryker
Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies
University of Arizona

Alan Wald
H. Chandler Davis Collegiate Professor Emeritus
English Literature and American Culture
University of Michigan

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