The committee overseeing the merger between Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities released the highly-anticipated list of three names for the new university last week. And of course, none of the names will make us all happy.
I waited a week to see how if my knee-jerk reactions would subside. They didn't. There's one name, one acronym that's just plain offensive on many levels. There's one name that's downright laughable. And the other name is vanilla, but sometimes vanilla can be OK.
The committee that narrowed the long list of possible names for the new university should be commended for their hard work. They will submit the three final names to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents in less than two weeks (Aug. 8 to be precise). I'm sure there was plenty of thought and considerarion given for all the proposed titles of New U, but two finalists just don't work. Hopefully, the Board of Regents will be smart enough to realize this themselves.
Let's give the three names a public vetting. Here goes:
1) Georgia Arts and Sciences University: This sounds like it came from the people who gave us "Georgia Health Sciences University." GASU gives us a state name (Georgia), a name representing Augusta State (Arts) and one for GHSU (Sciences). It's a compromise name. It's clunky. And its acronym is awful. And offensive.
Did anyone consider the acronym can be taken many ways? Sure, some people will call it "G-A-S-U." But let's face reality. Most everyone will call it "GAS-U." On a light-hearted scale, it's somewhat funny. But let's take this to the other extreme.
When I thought about "GAS-U" I immediately cringed. If you are Jewish, have Jewish friends or family or have been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., then you certainly understand the nefarious tone of the term "GAS-U." In one of the most horrible events in world history, The Holocaust, six million Jews were killed (many by gas chamber) by the Nazis. When you're coming up with a new name for a university, you have to consider all the possibilities. While for some this may be an extreme interpretation of "GASU," I think it's a name the Regents have to immediately reject. Do we want to have in this state a university with an acronym that can be perceived (even slightly) as anti-Semitic? What message would that send, especially to prospective students?
2) Georgia Regents University: This name reminds me of the sitcom Seinfeld, the show about nothing. This name has zero meaning. It's the antithesis of everything people wanted in a name. Regents neither describes the assets of Augusta State or the strengths of Georgia Health Sciences University. Like Seinfeld, it's a name about nothing.
What is a regent? According to dictionary.com, it is: 1. a person who exercises the ruling power in a kingdom during the minority, absence, or disability of the sovereign, 2. a ruler or governor, 3. a member of the governing board of a state university or a state educational system, 4. a university officer who exercises general supervision over the conduct and welfare of the students, 5. (in certain Catholic universities) a member of the religious order who is associated in the administration of a school or college with a layperson who is its dean or director.
What does any of that have to do with the combination of a liberal arts school with a strong business program and a medical research university?
The acronym is "GRU." While different, it has as much flavor as spinach. At least it's not offensive.
I don't understand why this name is even in the final three. The only thing I can figure is this: the committee is sucking up to the Board of Regents by offering this name. I hope that's not the case.
From an athletics standpoint, do you really want "Georgia Regents" across a jersey? And before you dismiss athletics, take into account athletics are the front door of any university. Augusta State garnered millions of dollars in coverage in recent years with its basketball team making three consecutive Final Four appearances and its men's golf team winning back-to-back national championships.
This name should be shot down as fast as "Georgia Arts and Sciences."
3) University of Augusta: This is your two scoops of vanilla ice cream name. It is safe, maybe even boring. But a boring name will not define the new university. Instead, the personality of the New U. will define the name.
There are some people over at GHSU who don't like this name because they feel Augusta State gets to keep part of its name. The name "University of Augusta" isn't about ASU, it's about representing a city with diverse educational tastes. It's about a region in the southeast, one known for its medicine, military and golf.
Yes, there are other "U of A" acronyms out there, but at least it's not offensive. And it's better than "GRU."
And before you start thinking Augusta is not a name that will be recognized around the world, think about the Masters Tournament. Golfers worldwide know exactly where Augusta is located. And the fine folks at Augusta National Golf Club didn't consider changing the course's name so people around the globe could figure out what state it's located in, nor did they change it to recognize one of the finest golfers ever (Bobby Jones). Augusta National is a name and place everyone on the golf scene knows well. It is because the club has built a reputation for itself. Likewise, once this new university (University of Augusta, hopefully) builds a reputation for itself everyone will know where it is and what it's about.
University of Augusta is not the perfect name. There is no perfect name. You can bang your head against the wall all you want, but you will never come up with a name that will please everyone. Let's hope the Regents pick one that's at least a) not offensive and b) has some meaning. Georgia Arts and Sciences University (GASU) and Georgia Regents University (GRU) don't fit that bill. As a lifelong Augusta resident and alumnus of Augusta State, I support the "University of Augusta," and I hope the Board of Regents does as well.