In the News: Jason Aldean controversy, Hollywood s...

In the News: Jason Aldean controversy, Hollywood strike, literacy proficiency, Elon Musk, Earth’s core and more

MTSU faculty and staff recently provided the media with their perspectives on various issues, from free speech and queer history to Elon Musk and the Earth’s magnetic core.

Kent Syler, assistant professor, political science
Kent Syler

• Political science professor Kent Syler shared his thoughts in an Associated Press story connecting far-right interest groups and anti-transgender health bills. The story appeared in various media outlets, including a July 5 article on NPR/PBS affiliate WGCU. You can read his comments in the article.

Syler also talked about Tennessee’s detrimental overstep into private business hiring practices regarding affirmative action in this Tennessee Lookout article that appeared July 18.

On Aug. 1, Syler gave insight on the mayoral race in Franklin, Tennessee, in a Tennessean article. Read comments here.

Syler was on hand to provide live commentary for WSMV-TV Channel 4 coverage of the Metro-Nashville general election on Aug. 3. Watch some of the live coverage.

Mark Abolins, professor of geosciences
Dr. Mark Abolins
Ken Paulson, director, Free Speech Center at MTSU, College of Media and Entertainment
Ken Paulson

• Geosciences professor Dr. Mark Abolins talked about the complexity of the Earth’s magnetic field in this July 8 article from Mashable.

• Ken Paulson, director of the Free Speech Center at MTSU and a First Amendment lawyer, shared thoughts about free speech of Los Angeles Times reporters who were publicly harassed by the police union for trying to interview an LAPD officer whose botched fireworks detonation blew up a city block in 2021. Read his comments in the July 14 LA Times article.

Beverly Keel, dean, College of Media and Entertainment
Beverly Keel
Dr. Sekou Franklin, political science professor
Dr. Sekou Franklin

• Beverly Keel, dean of the College of Media and Entertainment, compared issues in Hollywood with those in the Nashville music industry in this July 17 interview with WKRN-TV Channel 2.

• Dr. Sekou Franklin, political science professor and former president of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, condemned the imagery in a video by country music artist Jason Aldean. Read his comments in this July 19 article from WKRN-TV Channel 2.

Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Barnes, Biology Education
Dr. Elizabeth Barnes
Dr. John Vile
Dr. John Vile

• Dr. Elizabeth Barnes, assistant professor of biology, talked about the importance of educators sharing lived experiences with students in this July 19 article on, the online news site for the journal Science.

• Honors College Dean John Vile, professor of political science, talked to The Washington Post about Elon Musk’s latest attack on a lawmaker regarding ownership of Twitter (now X). Read comments from the July 21 article.

Vile also talked with Christian Broadcasting Network’s “Faith Nation” Aug. 4 about the validity of Donald Trump’s argument that his actions are protected by free speech. Watch the interview and read his comments.

Deborah Fisher
Dr. Kelly Strong, director and professor, MTSU School of Concrete and Construction Management
Dr. Kelly Strong

• Dr. Kelly Strong, recently retired director of the School of Concrete and Construction Management, was spotlighted in the Huntsville Business Journal July 24 for his participation in a panel discussion on long-term lunar settlement. Read details here.

• Deborah Fisher, director of the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies at MTSU, talked with the New York Post about the public debate regarding the release of Covenant School shooter Audrey Hale’s manifesto. Read her comments in the New York Post article from July 28.

Fisher, also executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, wrote an essay that appears on the TCOG website about the importance of releasing that information.

Fisher participated in an interview Aug. 2 with LiveNowFox on the subject as well. Watch the video here.

Leslie Haines
Dr. Tim Odegard
Dr. Tim Odegard

• Leslie Haines, professor in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media, was featured in the Murfreesboro Pulse for her recently released book, “Animal Abecedary: A One-of-a-Kind Alphabet Book,” in this Aug. 1 article.

• Dr. Tim Odegard, a professor of psychology and the Katherine Davis Murfree Chair of Excellence in Dyslexia Studies, talked with The (Nashville) Tennessean about student reading proficiency in the state. Read his comments in the Aug. 3 article.

Dr. La Shonda Mims
Dr. La Shonda Mims

• Dr. La Shonda Mims, assistant professor of history, was spotlighted in this article Aug. 5 in QNotes Carolinas about her newly published book, “Drastic Dykes and Accidental Activists: Queer Women in the Urban South.”  

Reporters seeking expertise from MTSU personnel, as well as members of the campus community with expertise for media, may contact Nancy DeGennaro in the Office of News and Media Relations at 615-631-6630 or via email at

— Nancy DeGennaro (