Augusta presidential pick, Emory to review protest response

A roundup of news and happenings from Georgia colleges and universities
Pro-Palestinian protesters who set up an encampment flee nonlethal ammunition deployed by police at Emory University in Atlanta on April 25, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / AJC)



Pro-Palestinian protesters who set up an encampment flee nonlethal ammunition deployed by police at Emory University in Atlanta on April 25, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / AJC)

An Augusta University administrator is in line to be promoted to the role of president, pending final approval from the Georgia Board of Regents.

In this edition of AJC on Campus, we bring you that news plus the latest on the upcoming departure of the University of Georgia’s law school dean, Emory University’s plan to review its response to campus protests and electric police cars coming to Georgia Tech.

Presidential pick

The Georgia Board of Regents named Russell T. Keen as the sole finalist for president of Augusta University.

Credit: University System of Georgia

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Credit: University System of Georgia

The Georgia Board of Regents on Thursday selected Russell T. Keen as the sole finalist to be the next leader of Augusta University.

The decision must be confirmed at a future board meeting.

Keen is a familiar face at the public research university of just over 10,500 students. He’s worked there since 2015, and is currently the executive vice president for administration and chief of staff to retiring president Brooks Keel, who announced last fall he plans to step down at the end of June.

“My time on campus and in Augusta has prepared me for a seamless transition into this role, and I would be honored to continue the legacy of a president I consider a mentor. I’m wholeheartedly vested in advancing the university’s success through its current initiatives and into its next chapter,” said Keen, in a written statement.

Augusta University has a prominent position within the University System of Georgia because it operates the state’s only public medical and dental schools, though the University of Georgia recently won approval to open its own medical school.

Keen graduated with a bachelor and master’s degrees from Georgia Southern University. He worked for just over a dozen years at his undergraduate alma mater, holding positions there, such as vice president for external affairs and also vice president of government relations and community engagement.

He received a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Georgia, where he also worked as a major gifts officer at the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

In a statement, University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue said Keen “has a tremendous history within our system and is dedicated to fiscal management and student success.”

Emory picks attorney to review protest response

Police arrest pro-Palestinian protestors who set up an encampment at  Emory University in Atlanta on  April 25, 2024. (Arvin Temkar/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

Emory University has hired an Atlanta attorney to review its actions on April 25 during a protest that led to detainments and arrests, including of students and faculty members.

Richard H. Deane Jr., an attorney with the law firm Jones Day, will lead the review, the university announced late last month. Fifteen of the 23 people arrested were students.

The university’s response to the pro-Palestinian protesters, who set up an encampment on the grounds of the private school, upset many at Emory. Undergraduate students and faculty members from a couple of Emory colleges approved no-confidence resolutions of President Gregory Fenves. He’s faced criticism for what some said was a heavy-handed response.

The review will take place over the next few weeks. Emory, in a news release, said the attorney “will be given full latitude to examine all of the factors that led to the April 25 arrests.” The report will center on decisions Emory officials made that day, such as the choice to remove the encampment and contact external police agencies.

In an April 29 letter, to Emory community members, Fenves pledged to conduct a review “so that we can develop recommendations to improve how we keep our community safe.”

UGA law school dean to step down

Peter “Bo” Rutledge, dean of the University of Georgia School of Law, will return to the faculty at the end of the 2024 calendar year, the school announced.

Credit: Robert Newcomb

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Credit: Robert Newcomb

The University of Georgia law school will look for a new head following a decision by its dean to leave his leadership role.

Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge became the law dean in 2015. He will step down and return to the faculty after Dec. 31, 2024, UGA recently announced.

In an statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about his reasons for leaving, Rutledge noted he soon will have reached the 10-year mark in the post and said: “The Law School is in a historically strong position thanks to supportive state and university leadership, an outstanding faculty, engaged alumni, wonderful students and a dedicated staff.”

He added: “It’s been an honor to serve them in pursuit of a vision to create the nation’s best return on investment in legal education. Above all else, I’d like to thank my family who has made enormous sacrifices to support that work over the past decade.”

Rutledge, whose expertise is in international dispute resolution, previously served as a U.S. Supreme Court clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas. In 2008, he joined the UGA faculty and holds the Talmadge Chair of Law.

During his tenure as dean, the law school touted its work to increase scholarship funds and lower student debt.

UGA President Jere Morehead called Rutledge’s years as dean “extraordinary.”

“He has strengthened the school’s long-standing record of excellence and led it to even greater heights. I have appreciated his friendship and wise counsel as well as his dedication to our students,” Morehead said in a statement.

UGA Provost S. Jack Hu will begin a search for the next law dean.

Oglethorpe says goodbye

Former Oglethorpe University President Manning Pattillo waits for the start of the Class of 2022 commencement ceremony on May 21, 2022. Pattillo died June 2, 2024, at the age of 104. (Steve Schaefer /

Credit: Steve Schaefer

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Credit: Steve Schaefer

Manning Pattillo, who served as president of Oglethorpe University from 1975 to 1988, died June 2 in Atlanta. He was 104.

The Brookhaven university said during his tenure, Pattillo worked to increase the average SAT test scores of incoming students and boost the school’s academic reputation. He also helped establish a freshman seminar, improve the athletics program and led various building projects.

Pattillo, the school’s 13th president, continued to be a visible presence on campus even after retiring; he attended 47 college commencement ceremonies from 1976 until 2022.

A service will take place at 11 a.m., June 15, at Lenbrook-Atlanta, 3747 Peachtree Road in Atlanta.

Student debt relief

The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute is one of several organizations asking several states, including Georgia, to drop a legal action against the Biden administration’s efforts to forgive student loans through the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) loan repayment plan.

In April, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr joined a federal lawsuit with a number of other Republican-led states seeking to block the White House’s plan.

The federal program allows eligible borrowers to make monthly student loan repayments based on their income and family size. Single borrowers who make $32,800 a year or less can qualify for a $0 payment. Some borrowers also can see their loans forgiven after as few as 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The organizations recently sent an open letter to Carr and other attorneys general expressing support for the student loan debt relief plan. The letter calls the program “especially important for Georgia, as we rank third in the nation for student loan debt per borrower, behind Washington D.C. and Maryland respectively.”

More than 65,000 Georgia residents have applied for student loan forgiveness under SAVE and related federal plans, according to the policy institute.

A return to ‘Do-Re-Mi’

Clark Atlanta University will once again offer a music education major, which it halted in 2005.

The private, historically Black university in Atlanta said the program will feature a comprehensive curriculum and include diverse musical traditions and approaches to teaching.

“The relaunch of the music education major underscores the university’s commitment to providing inclusive and innovative educational opportunities that empower students through music to achieve their dreams and make a positive impact in the world,” Provost Charlene Gilbert said in a statement.

Georgia Tech police: It’s electrifying

Georgia Tech added three all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E GT SUVs to its police patrol fleet.

Credit: Georgia Tech

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Credit: Georgia Tech

The latest upgrade to the Georgia Tech Police Department is buzzworthy.

The campus police’s patrol division has added three all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E GT SUVs to its fleet. In addition to the new sport utility vehicles, the campus police also operate electric golf carts and electric bikes.

The new cars can go about 250 miles on a full charge. School officials say that means the vehicles can canvas the school’s three-mile radius campus while saving on fuel and lowering carbon emissions.

The electric vehicle push is in line with Georgia Tech’s 10-year comprehensive campus plan, which calls for sustainable approaches to growth and development.

If you have any higher education tips or thoughts, email reporter Vanessa McCray at