On his big day, polarized politics chases down Sam Olens at KSU

KSU President Sam Olens at commencement exercises in May. HENRY TAYLOR / HENRY.TAYLOR@AJC.COM
KSU President Sam Olens at commencement exercises in May. HENRY TAYLOR / HENRY.TAYLOR@AJC.COM

Credit: Jim Galloway

Credit: Jim Galloway

At Kennesaw State University today, Sam Olens will be formally invested as the institution's fourth president in a well-robed ceremony.

When Republican attorney general was named to the post one year ago, many saw a man happily escaping the black/white, my-way/highway excesses of GOP primaries.


But there's no getting away from polarized politics these days, and so Olens begins his formal tenure knowing that the Board of Regents is looking over his shoulder. From our AJC colleague Eric Stirgus:

The Georgia Board of Regents will conduct a special review of how Kennesaw State University responded to the decision by five African-American cheerleaders to kneel during the national anthem in silent protest of police misconduct and racial inequality.

… Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren and state Rep. Earl Ehrhart boasted in a series of text messages about pressuring KSU president Sam Olens into keeping the school’s cheerleaders off the field during the national anthem after they knelt during the anthem for the first time during the Sept. 30 game.

Olens on Wednesday issued a statement in which he expressed regret how the situation has unfolded and admits “that the circumstances could have been handled better.” Olens added he’d welcome a meeting with the cheerleaders.

So how might the Board of Regents inquiry go? Here's a quote from Chancellor Steve Wrigley, who was questioned last May about Ehrhart's influence over the state university system, as a House Appropriations subcommittee chairman:

“We’re a public entity, and we are accountable to public officials, the governor, the General Assembly, taxpayers,” Wrigley said. “I don’t think it’s out-of-bounds by any means that he raises questions about how we do certain things.

“There is no problem with him being critical. Sometimes people being critical are right.”

ExploreMeanwhile, tThe Marietta Daily Journal adds this note:

The kneeling controversy may be deflating enthusiasm for Olens’ investiture ceremony: An email sent to KSU’s college deans from the director of university events last week urged them to get more faculty members and students to attend the event.

“At this time we only have 74 faculty in attendance,” the email reads. “We have 6-plus more colleges than we did 10-plus years ago for our last Investiture Ceremony and a lot less faculty so far participating in the ceremony.”


On a related note, InsiderAdvantage reports that two state senators angered by anthem-kneeling in the NFL are drafting legislation to repeal the tax break the Legislature approved in 2016 that applies to Atlanta's Mercedes Benz facility.


And in an interview with Time magazine, Roy Moore, the Republican in a hot U.S. Senate race in Alabama, argued that NFL players and others who kneel during the national anthem are violating federal law. "It was a act of Congress that every man stand and put their hand over their heart. That's the law," he said. The code section he cited outlines proper etiquette, with no penalties attached.


Here's something you don't see a university bragging about every day. From the press release:

Letters written by former President Barack Obama to his college girlfriend, Alexandra McNear, are now part of the collection of Emory University's Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library, where they are available to students and scholars.

Spanning 1982 to 1984, the letters were written after Obama, who began his college career at California's Occidental College, transferred to Columbia University in New York City.

"They are quite beautifully composed and reveal the search of a young man for meaning and identity," says Rosemary Magee, Rose Library director. "While intimate in a philosophical way, they reflect primarily a college student coming to terms with himself and others. In fact, they show the same kind of yearnings and issues that our own students face — and that students everywhere encounter."


Cherokee County math teacher Lyn Orletsky on Wednesday announced her resignation. Her request to two boys to conceal their Trump "Make America Great Again" T-shirts exploded into a social media maelstrom last month and led to her suspension. From the AJC's Maureen Downey:

She made the request only after students in her pre-algebra class voiced concerns about the message on the shirts worn that morning by two classmates. Her exchange with the boys, captured on cellphone video and released to a conservative website, led to email threats on her life and a GOP candidate for Georgia governor picketing her school.

“After attacks on my character and threats on my life, I have made the decision to resign from my teaching position at River Ridge High School. While in hindsight I would have handled the situation differently, the outcry over this incident has been disproportionate to the event itself,” she said in a statement.

The gubernatorial candidate in question, state Sen. Michael Williams of Cumming, quickly patted himself on the back for his unrelenting efforts to chase a public school teacher out of her classroom. From the campaign press release:

This morning, Williams sent an email asking supporters to join him in another protest this Thursday at the school board meeting. He made clear he was not going to allow the situation to be forgotten. Only hours after his email, the teacher submitted her resignation. Once again, proving he is a man of more results, and less talk.


The Atlanta office of McGuireWoods Consulting, a government affairs firm that includes several prominent lobbyists at the state Capitol, has laid down markers in the Atlanta race for mayor and council:

-- Mary Norwood is likely on her way to a runoff.

-- The race for the other spot in the runoff has narrowed to two likely contenders ([Keisha] Lance Bottoms and [Peter] Aman).

-- Atlanta’s City Council will have at least seven new faces and probably more.

Note to the other candidates: Conveyance of this information does not constitute an endorsement on our part.


Meanwhile, former Atlanta mayor Sam Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition and the PAC that comes with it, on Wednesday sent out a worried letter to the candidates seeking to replace incumbent Kasim Reed in City Hall:

[W]e are seriously concerned over what we detect to be mean-spirited personal overtones in conflict with former Mayor Bill Hartsfield’s incantation of Atlanta being “a city too busy to hate”.

Observing the national political landscape, it’s obvious that a negative attitude can decrease a politician’s popularity, so I plead with you to set your sights at a level that will make our city proud.  As a result, we predict that the expected runoff will offer the electorate two candidates who have chosen to avoid the hate-mongering. 

That wasn’t the letter's only purpose. At the bottom:

P.S.  Remember your commitment to be the keynote speaker at our Annual Luncheon Meeting January 31, 2018 if you are elected Mayor.


Erick Erickson of WSB Radio fame makes his debut Friday on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher."


On Wednesday, Joe Scarborough practically begged Sally Yates to run for elected office on MSBC's "Morning Joe." She dropped a few hints that an election bid - say, U.S. Senate in Georgia in 2020 - may not be in the cards.

Said Scarborough: "When are you going to run for something?"

"I have to tell you, I've never been drawn to the idea of elective office," Yates answered. Watch the video here. (Greg Bluestein)


Jon Ossoff has officially moved to the Sixth District. The Democrat, who still hasn't ruled out a campaign against Republican Karen Handel, now lives in an apartment in Brookhaven -- near where he grew up. He drew criticism during that epic U.S. House special election for living near Emory University, a few miles outside the district, so that his fiance could walk to her classes at Emory University's medical school. She is now overseas completing graduate coursework, untethering him from the need to be near the campus. (GB)


The most passed-around article in Washington on Wednesday was probably a Politico.com look at U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who has returned to D.C. after a lengthy illness. From the opening paragraphs:

The 79-year-old Cochran appeared frail and at times disoriented during a brief hallway interview on Wednesday. He was unable to answer whether he would remain chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and at one point, needed a staffer to remind him where the Senate chamber is located.

“Don’t believe everything you hear,” Cochran said in a low voice when asked whether he plans to retire after 44 years in office.

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