Kennesaw State group targets Sam Olens, while supporters mount a defense

A curious proxy battle is underway over the likely Sam Olens takeover of Kennesaw State University.

On one side, you have faculty leaders who have already raised a red flag about his probable appointment to the presidency of the Cobb County school. Now an alumni group is sounding an alarm.

Two Kennesaw Staters, student Lane Hunter and graduate Sarah Rose, drafted a petition urging the Board of Regents to reject the Attorney General as "one huge step backwards for the university."

Their chief complaint is his role in defending in court Georgia's same-sex marriage ban, which was struck down by a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

From their petition, which had more than 2,400 signatures:

The school has become increasingly accepting of LGBTQ students. As alumni of KSU who are part of the queer community, we worry that appointing Olens as university president will have a long-lasting, detrimental effect on the academic experience of KSU's queer student body - and the community as a whole.

On the other hand, Republican powerbroker Randy Evans told the Daily Report he would make an ideal fit at the helm of the university. From The Daily Report:

"Between having been the Cobb County Commission chairman and then being the attorney general during the years when Kennesaw [State] really grew and developed into a university, you couldn't design a much better fit," said Evans.

Evans noted that, as attorney general, Olens essentially served as KSU's lawyer, and "he really shepherded it through those years."

He also noted that Olens had proved he could manage a large organization by overseeing the state Law Department, "which is essentially one of the largest law firms in the state."

Two people with direct knowledge of the negotiations say it’s likely that Olens will be tapped to lead Kennesaw State, but both stressed the talks are ongoing. One of them added that the discussions had hit a bumpy patch within the last two weeks.

Olens has stayed mum on whether he will step down this year to take the reins of the school, which has faced troubling financial questions that emerged just as the former president retired. The Board of Regents has declined comment, too.

Rumors are swirling still at the Capitol, and even Olens’ decision to return a portrait of himself prompted a new wave of speculation. The latest signal that Olens could be moving on: His campaign website,, is no longer functioning.

Gov. Nathan Deal would tap Olens’ replacement if he takes the gig, and a leading contender is economic development commissioner Chris Carr, who is a close ally of the governor and a former top aide to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.