Kennesaw State University

“Marketplace of Ideas” speaker discusses consequences of microaggression

Peter Wood says minor insults and slights have chilling effect on open dialogue

The optimism of an open marketplace of ideas, where “right” opinions prevail over “wrong” ones, may be under attack in an America where simply asking where a person comes from can lead to severe consequences, author and scholar Peter Wood said during Kennesaw State University’s third “Marketplace of Ideas” on Oct. 8.

Wood, an anthropologist and former educator who now heads the National Association of Scholars, wove together themes from the title of his lecture, “Microaggression and the Angry Mob: the Consequences of Political Correctness.” Using the history of the sometime elusive search for a well-functioning marketplace of ideas as his backdrop, Wood described how Americans are behaving toward each other, why they are angry, and how political correctness is leading people away from honest, intellectual debate — a shift he says is a threat to higher education.  

Using a recent policy statement issued by the University of California, Wood defined microaggression as “the everyday verbal, nonverbal and environmental slights, snubs or insults, whether intentional or non-intentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely on their marginalized group membership.” 

Wood described a scenario where students are being agitated by the existence of microaggressions; faculty members are being charged with violations of students’ rights; and some people are losing their jobs. He cited a recent Atlantic Magazine cover story’s conclusion that students have developed such thin skins against possible slights or insults that they seek redress, demanding colleges provide someone to whom they report offenses. Many universities have obliged by creating places where students can report their grievances and be taken seriously. 

“We’re getting out of this a generation of students who are hyperalert to the possibility of an insult,” said Wood, who acknowledges that “bad manners are bad manners.” “If you are so boorish as to be going around insulting people on racial, ethnic or any other ground, then you should cure your behavior. But that’s not really where the microaggression topic takes us.”

Instead, said Wood, questions and statements like “Do you work here?” “What are you?” “Where do you come from?” “I was poor growing up and I made it”; “I understand exactly how you feel”; and “You speak English very well” are treated as microaggressions.           

“Those statements have a certain maladroitness to them, but that’s not the issue,” Wood said. “The issue is what we make of them once they’re said. Are these cases where, when a faculty member says them to a student or a student to another student, they should be at the beginning of a disciplinary case? That’s where we are right now. To be insulted is one thing. But to use that insult as a way to maneuver yourself into a position to ruin one’s career or reputation seems a bit of a stretch.”

Microaggression and what Wood called the “culture of readiness to take offense at a hair-trigger level” are leading to a combative, angry state in America. He said the anger is also rooted in the post-World War II period of national anger, which eventually gave way in the 1960s to a cultural notion that expressing anger is liberating — what social scientists called “expressive individualism.” That coincided with a breakdown in child-rearing norms that valued teaching children to control their anger.  

Wood quoted from his book, “Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now”:

“Our society is harmed by misdirected aggression. It escalates social divisions; it turns minor disagreements into major blowouts; it poisons personal relations; it coarsens our public life and drives the political polarization of the country. We’ve become a country of anger and resentment, one in which the expression of grievance is often an end in itself. We’ve embraced a culture of expressive anger.”   

Around the time the “anger culture” took hold, Wood said, the university’s traditional role in shaping values begin to fall out of favor — with student autonomy replacing “in loco parentis” (in place of the parent) as an institutional value. The result of that, he said, may be the reason a recent Carnegie Foundation study showed that today’s students feel a lack of community.

Noting what he said is a “dissolution of values in higher education,” Wood concluded that the marketplace of ideas will be better served by a return to the traditional role of academia — the pursuit of truth (through research and discovery); the transmission of culture and civilization; preparing the next generation for a productive life; and a responsibility for the formation of character among students.

The third “Marketplace of Ideas” lecture was hosted by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and funded in part by the Kennesaw State University 50th Anniversary Committee and the Charles Koch Foundation.

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— Sabbaye McGriff

Photo by David Caselli

Officer interviews in steroid case didn't top half-hour

Name of Publication: 
The Augusta Chronicle
Excerpt of Article: 

All of the recorded interviews by the Georgia Bureau of In­­vestigation of Richmond Coun­ty Sheriff’s Office personnel accused of using steroids lasted 30 minutes or less in an investigation in which the district attorney determined she didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute anyone.


The longest GBI interview of the 15 officers accused who were still with the department when the investigation began was with Depu­ty Phillip Hambrick. It lasted 30 minutes. The shortest, with Deputy David Sward, lasted just more than two minutes.


INTERVIEW AUDIO: Law Enforcement Officers

Interviews with nine former officers Brandon Paquette named as people to whom he provided steroids were conducted by phone and not recorded. This included the interview of former narcotics officer Michael Dodaro, who once shared an apartment with Paquette and introduced him to several of the suspected officers.

INTERVIEW AUDIO: Brandon Paquette

There was no indication in the investigative report that the GBI attempted to interview anyone at gyms where Paquette and several officers worked out, or a friend Paquette said witnessed one exchange of steroids with an officer. ...

The results of the investigation didn’t surprise Stan Crowder, a criminal justice professor at Kennesaw State Uni­ver­sity and a retired military and Cobb County law enforcement officer. He pointed to a similar investigation of law enforcement officers and firefighters in Cobb County that turned up no evidence of steroid use even though a firefighter testified under oath that 95 percent
were using, Crowder said.

Crowder said that steroid use is rampant in law enforcement agencies and that generally either the leadership doesn’t know or steroid use is tolerated. ...

Culture Lessons


Arts and cuisine featured at “Year of the Portuguese-Speaking World” Day

KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct. 8, 2015) ─ The “Year of the Portuguese Speaking World” Day event at Kennesaw State this week was a teachable moment when performances of Brazil’s most famous party dance ─ the Samba ─ and its martial art and dance form called capoeira turned into engaging lessons for students, faculty, staff and other guests.

Republican Debate Roundtable

Name of Publication: 
News Radio 106.7
Excerpt of Article: 

Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University, joins a roundtable discussion on Wednesday's Republican presidential debate. His analysis begins at 3:30 in the broadcast program, moderated by Steve McCoy and Cheryl White.  

Race for Georgia governor takes shape three years out

Name of Publication: 
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Excerpt of Article: 

Updated: 9:59 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015

By Greg Bluestein - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The next governor’s race is a long ways off, but the campaign for the state’s top job is well underway.

At least a half-dozen influential Republicans and three high-profile Democrats are mulling a run for the state’s top job in 2018. Some are already lining up staffers, calling donors and holding quiet meetings with their allies to gauge their chances of succeeding Gov. Nathan Deal, who cannot run for a third consecutive term.

Republicans hope to maintain their grip on an office they’ve held since 2002, but some worry about the prospect of a bloody primary battle. Across the aisle, there’s an equal amount of fidgeting as three of the Democratic Party’s rising stars circle each other.

And there’s always a chance another name, perhaps a relative unknown, emerges between now and 2018. After all, three years before the 2010 campaign, Deal was a low-profile congressman from Gainesville who was hardly mentioned as a contender for governor.

One candidate — Libertarian Doug Craig — has already announced, even though there’s more than three years to go before the vote. ...

Everyone is on Kasim watch’

Democrats cleared the field in 2014 to let Jason Carter, then a state senator and a grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, run for governor. But he probably won’t have another cakewalk to his party’s nomination if he decides to run again.

Carter returned to private practice after his loss to Deal, but he’s a constant presence at Democratic fundraisers and local civic events. He’s also about to get a boost in his national profile in November when he becomes the chairman of the Carter Center, his grandfather’s international civil rights group.

Stacey Abrams is also seen as a top contender. The Yale-educated attorney and author is the top Democrat in the state House. She’s also the driving force behind the New Georgia Project, which aims to register hundreds of thousands of new left-leaning voters to cut into the GOP advantage in Georgia.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is the biggest subject of speculation. The mayor finishes his second term in office in early 2018, and he has become a national spokesman for the party on the talk show circuit and a key surrogate for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.

“Everyone is on Kasim watch,” said Kerwin Swint, a Kennesaw State University political scientist. “But winning statewide in a general election will still be very tough in 2018 for any Democrat.”

Michael D. Sweazey

Michael Sweazy 4.jpg

New director of global operations brings Secret Service thinking to student safety overseas

KENNESAW, Ga. (Sept. 4, 2015)—Kennesaw State students and faculty traveling abroad can rest a little easier when they venture into unfamiliar foreign lands to study and work. They now have the backing of Michael Sweazey, a veteran security expert who will examine global risks based on real-time intelligence and put in place protocols for what they should do in every emergency.

KSU professor chosen to head new Georgia Film Academy

Name of Publication: 
Marietta Daily Journal
Excerpt of Article: 
by Brittini Ray
August 31, 2015 12:13 AM

MARIETTA — Cobb County’s role in making Georgia a premier film production hub grew a little bigger this month as Jeff Stepakoff, Kennesaw State University film and TV writing professor, was named director of the Georgia Film Academy. 

The academy, which opened Aug. 1, is part of a collaborative effort between the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia to provide specialized education and training in film production.

The program will serve as portal for industry officials to find skilled workers, according to Stepakoff. The partnership will help companies to connect with qualified workers, while cultivating Georgia’s status as a “homegrown industry,” he said. 

“When a studio or production company is considering Georgia as a production location, they will work with the office to quickly identify and hire qualified crew for their shoot,” Stepakoff said. “The Georgia Film Academy will play a central role in the growth of a sustainable and permanent industry in our state. The office will be a one-stop shop for film and television production hiring needs, as well as a system-wide clearinghouse for student internships and entry-level, on-set opportunities. The office will be very proactive in its networking to identify crew needs at all levels of production. It’ll be a unique feature of our state.” ...


Kennesaw State president named one of Atlanta’s “Most Admired” CEOs for second year

Dr. Papp receies trophy from Crystal Edmonson of Atlanta Business Chronicle

Atlanta Business Chronicle recognizes Daniel S. Papp as one of top five in education

Click here for a photo of the trophy presentation

KENNESAW, Ga.  (Aug. 28, 2014) — For the second year in a row, the Atlanta Business Chronicle has named Kennesaw State University President Daniel S. Papp one of Atlanta’s 50 “Most Admired CEOs.” The awards were announced Thursday during a breakfast at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta.

Papp was among five winners in the education category, which also included the presidents of Georgia State, Georgia Tech and Morehouse College, and the superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools.

The publication recognized executives who are established leaders with a strong record of innovation in their fields, outstanding financial performance, a commitment to quality, a strong vision and a commitment to diversity.

Since taking the helm at Kennesaw State in 2006, Papp has implemented and overseen many significant milestones as the institution continues its rise in national prominence. The University has just completed a consolidation with Southern Polytechnic State University, which has resulted in an enrollment of more than 33,000 students from 130 countries and a ranking among the nation’s 50-largest public institutions.

In 2013, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents designated Kennesaw State a “comprehensive university,” emphasizing the University’s increase in research, graduate programs and global engagement. The University offers more than 100 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees. Under Papp’s leadership, the University graduated its first doctoral student in 2010 and now offers 12 doctoral degrees, including Ph.D.s in international conflict management and data analytics.

Papp also has guided Kennesaw State through a multi-year process that will result next week in the launch of the University’s inaugural NCAA Division I football season, with the first game being played against East Tennessee State University on September 3, and the first home game on September 12 against Edward Waters College.

In addition, several new state-of-the-art facilities have been constructed on the campus during Papp’s tenure, including most recently, a $41 million student recreation facility; a $20 million addition to the Bagwell College of Education; the $50 million Prillaman Hall health sciences facility; and a $21 million facility dedicated entirely to scientific teaching and research.

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Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering more than 100 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees. A member of the University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive university with more than 32,000 students from 130 countries. In January 2015, Kennesaw State and Southern Polytechnic State University consolidated to create one of the 50-largest public universities in the country. 

School of Communication & Media designated at Kennesaw State

Social Science Building 0962-7 copy 2.jpg

25-year-old program prepares for next phase of development

KENNESAW, Ga. (August 27, 2015) — The former Department of Communication at Kennesaw State University has been renamed the School of Communication & Media to better position the 25-year-old program to serve more than 1,000 students each semester and pursue national accreditation. 

President Daniel S. Papp announced the School’s new status at the official Opening of the University last week, noting the unique opportunity for growth in one of the University’s most popular academic programs, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

“The new name will enhance opportunities for external fund-raising and respond more effectively and efficiently to student needs,” Papp said. “The School already graduates more students than any other communications program in the state except the University of Georgia’s. We see the potential for even more explosive growth.”

More than 1,500 students are enrolled in the School’s two undergraduate majors in communication and public relations, the master’s program in integrated global communication and an online graduate certificate in digital and social media.  Communication ranks among the University’s top three academic programs in enrollment.

To meet the demands of growth, the School of Communication & Media will seek external funding and other resources. It also will pursue national accreditation through the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC), a credential held by only two other state institutions — University of Georgia and Savannah State University.   

“It is exciting to look ahead to what a School of Communication & Media can accomplish,” said Robin Dorff, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, which houses the new School. “We look forward to creating a program of national significance as we foster an environment that supports innovative teaching, research and faculty development.”

In the transition to the new school structure, administrators and faculty members anticipate changes and enhancements to the program.

“We are looking ahead to new trends, new technologies and new opportunities in the broad fields of communication and media,” said Barbara Gainey, director of the School of Communication & Media.  “We plan to work with our faculty, staff, students and business partners to equip students to be leaders in the evolving communication workplace.”

Gainey also noted the School’s desire to develop its leadership in engaging with the professional community, including student internships; in global learning for graduate and undergraduate students; and in technology in the classrooms, digital media labs and studio facilities.

“Our goal is to prepare students with the communication knowledge, skills and experiences they need to make an instant impact in the workplace and their communities,” she said. 

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Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering more than 100 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees. A member of the University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive university with more than 32,000 students from 130 countries. In January 2015, Kennesaw State and Southern Polytechnic State University consolidated to create one of the 50 largest public universities in the country. 

MOVIN’ ON IN: Thousands flock to KSU campus to start new chapter

Name of Publication: 
Marietta Daily Journal
Excerpt of Article: 

KENNESAW — More than 5,000 students moved into housing on Kennesaw State University campuses this week in advance of the first day of classes Monday.

Hillgrove High School graduate Tyler Tollefson, 18, of Marietta, was one of the 450 students moving in Saturday to the University Village Suites complex on the northern end of the Kennesaw campus.

“(I’m most excited for) the atmosphere and having my own space,” he said with a wide smile on his face. “I like the Quad.”

His first class will be geometry Monday, he said, followed by composition, wellness, and psychology.

Of the 33,000 students enrolled at KSU, Natalie Reckard, associate director of residence life on the Kennesaw campus, said about 3,500 students will make the main Kennesaw campus their home this year.

Another 1,700 students will live on the Marietta campus, which was formerly Southern Polytechnic State University before the two schools consolidated Jan. 6.


The University Village Suites, built in 2008, were busy with freshmen and their families carrying armfuls of bags and pushing cartloads of items onto elevators to fill new dorm rooms.

Tollefson’s parents, Josh Bressler and Jennifer Bressler, were in his dorm room Saturday afternoon helping to unpack and organize his things. His dad said it took two carloads to get everything to campus.

“I don’t like to pack lightly,” the freshman joked.

Tollefson said he came to KSU because it was close to home and he wanted to study economics. The teen’s mom, who was helping to unpack clothes, chimed in and said with a smile her son was studying economics so he could “become a billionaire.”

Tollefson played baseball at Hillgrove for three years, he said, and enjoys surfing. He’s the family’s youngest child to leave home for school, his parents said.

“We’ve got clothes, we’ve got bedding, a coffee maker, a toaster oven, a blender, water,” Tollefson’s dad said. “I’m excited for him. So far so good — the campus is so clean and new.”

Along with the necessities, the freshman said he will have his surfboard with him on campus, just in case he finds friends to take a road trip with. He’s looking to take trips to places like Florida or North Carolina, and hopes to find other students with similar interests.


Kadijah Arnold, a 20-year-old KSU junior from Athens studying early childhood education, was wearing a golden yellow shirt and directing new students to their rooms as they got off the elevators in University Village Suites on Saturday. She is a resident assistant for the second time this year and said she loves being able to help her peers.

If this semester is anything like last year when she was a resident assistant, Arnold said she doesn’t think students on her floor will have any problems with being homesick.

“Last year, I actually didn’t have any residents that came to me about being homesick,” she said. “It was more so people asking what they can do. They’re wanting to get out and have fun.”

Arnold said the first two weeks are exciting on campus, with fun events for students all around campus as part of the “Week of Welcome.”

With events including a foam party, casino night, fall festival, bike fiesta, bubble soccer and much more planned in the coming weeks, new students will have plenty to do, she said.

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