ATLANTA ― Attorney General Sam Olens will interview this week to become president of Kennesaw State University, according to Georgia’s top higher education official.
University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby said in a letter sent Monday to students and faculty of Georgia’s third-largest university that a committee of the university system’s governing Board of Regents will interview Olens on Tuesday in Atlanta. Huckaby said that he initially planned a national search for the school’s next president but now believes Olens should be considered.
Students and faculty at the school have objected to Olens as rumors spread in recent months that he would be appointed. Some students specifically have objected to Olens’ defense of Georgia’s ban on gay marriage before a U.S. Supreme Court ruling effectively legalized the unions nationwide.
They also have criticized Olens for joining with other states suing President Barack Obama’s administration over a federal directive telling schools that transgender students should be able to use the bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.
Olens, a Republican, was elected in 2010 and easily won re-election in 2014. If Olens leaves office, Gov. Nathan Deal would appoint a replacement to complete the term, subject to the state Senate’s approval.
Nick Genesi, a spokesman for Olens, declined comment on Monday. A spokeswoman for Deal didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
If chosen to lead Kennesaw State, Olens would take over following a series of ethical and other breaches by former school administrators reported by auditors in recent months.
In early June, auditors found the school’s former president Dan Papp received more than $577,000 in deferred compensation along with other payments that broke school rules. Another audit reported that a school administrator overseeing food service did consulting work for a vendor, improperly charged the school for conference travel and used his position to get friends and family hired. Houston Davis, an administrator with the University System of Georgia, took over as interim president at Kennesaw State following Papp’s retirement at the end of June.
Olens, who is 59, was born in Florida but grew up in New Jersey. He came to Georgia to attend Emory University and is the first Jewish statewide officer in Georgia. He previously led the Cobb County Board of Commissioners and the Atlanta Regional Commission. Until 2010, he worked for an Atlanta law firm.
As attorney general, Olens frequently focuses on harsher penalties for sex trafficking. He also has joined other Republican attorneys general across the country in lawsuits targeting the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act and other policies.