Kennesaw State University President Sam Olens announced his resignation Thursday, Dec. 14.
The announcement comes less than a month after Olens was officially inaugurated president in an investiture ceremony attended by protestors. His resignation will go into effect on Feb. 15, 2018.
“Even with these successes, I have decided that new leadership will be required for KSU to fully realize its potential,” Olens wrote in his letter to faculty, staff and students.
The former state attorney general replaced Daniel Papp, who resigned abruptly following an audit that revealed sweeping financial misconduct by the university during his presidency.
“Challenges to the institution were evident as I began my tenure and these trials, coupled with internal trepidations, made for a very difficult start,” Olens wrote in a letter announcing his intention to step down.
Tensions came to a head in October of this year, when the KSU cheerleading squad was barred from the football field during the national anthem after five of them kneeled to protest police brutality against minorities.
Text messages obtained by the AJC revealed an exchange between state Rep. Earl Ehrhart and Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren showing the two pressured Olens into silencing the cheerleaders’ protest.
Olens maintains the cheerleaders’ absence from the field was unrelated to their protest but said in an email to the campus community that he regrets how the situation was handled. The original gameday schedule has since been restored, but community members and campus constituents alike have called for his resignation nonetheless.
The Sentinel reached out to Shlondra Young, one of the cheerleaders involved in the kneeling protest, but Young said she was unwilling to comment on Olens’ resignation until she informed herself about it further.
“I think this will be a morale boost,” professor of conflict management Dr. Volker Franke said in response to the announcement. “I think faculty are excited to move forward and have a leader who is qualified to move us forward.”
The Board of Regents announced in a press release that it would immediately begin forming a national search committee for the next president.
The committee will be made up of representatives from the university’s faculty, staff and student populations, as well as alumni and members of the local community. The Board of Regents opted not to conduct a national search prior to Olen’s appointment in 2016, a decision that angered many of KSU’s constituents.
“He never competed for the job against other qualified candidates,” said Dr. Nina Morgan, associate professor of English. “It was a gift given to him by those in local government, and like some gifts, it was destined to be returned.”
While the search is underway, Ken Harmon, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, will serve as interim president. The Office of the Provost declined to comment on the appointment.
Cory Hancock contributed to this article