Sam Olens on LGBTQ criticism: “I represented the state”

Many students and faculty have opposed Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens becoming president of Kennesaw State University for a number of reasons. Olens sat down with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday and discussed their concerns.

Here are excerpts:

Q: There are a number of students who are concerned or said ‘We don’t want you here.’ Can you talk about how you build that trust with students and faculty?

A: "I've already met with the Student Government Association president, a very sharp lady. And I've already asked her to set up a bunch of meetings, so we have meetings on my calendar with a bunch of different groups. I expect to set up shortly meetings with leading faculty, with groups of faculty. You have to have meetings with people, talking with people, getting them to know you."

Q: The LGBTQ community has been concerned with your positions defending the same-sex marriage amendment …

A: "So they weren't my positions, they were the state's positions. I took an oath of office to defend the laws of the state and that's what I did … So it's not a personal issue. It was my legal responsibility. I have a meeting set with leading members of the LGBTQ community at Kennesaw already."

Q: Some people may say I understand that to a certain degree, but you look at Thurbert Baker when he was attorney general, he had his disagreements with Gov. Perdue …

A: "That's a totally different issue though. Thurbert will tell you all the time he took positions he disagreed with because, once again, he was following the oath of his office.'

Q: As far as the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter that was sent out last year regarding transgender students (being allowed to use public school restrooms that best fit their gender identity) …

A: "I represented the state. There's millions of dollars involved from the state. I had clients from the state that were very interested in that."

Q: And now as KSU president, what will your position be on that?

A: "As KSU president, I take the lead from the Board of Regents. So no longer, Nov. 1, being the lawyer for the state, those types of policy decisions are really called by the Board of Regents and the (University System of Georgia) Chancellor. Secondly, my job as KSU president, like my job now, is to make sure there is a safe and creative environment for all students on that campus … It's a totally different position. It's a totally different set of responsibilities."

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