Dear Georgia Board of Regents,
Greetings. I know a lot is on your platter for your Tuesday agenda. So I'll get to the matter at hand. For months, we in Augusta have debated the name of the new university which will come from the consolidation of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities. There's been a smorgasbord of name choices, and we all have different opinions. But let's get one thing clear: Many of us, from alumni to students, to professors to staff, from residents to politicians, all agree the name "Georgia Regents University" is unacceptable.
As one of my friends mentioned, it's simply a slap to the face to our fair city. I fully understand many of you probably don't care. There are no regents living within 60 miles of our city. So let me debate our cause.
A committee overseeing the consolidation of the universities pared down a long list of name choices to three: Georgia Arts and Sciences, Georgia Regents University and University of Augusta. The first name works well except for the acronym (GAS-U). The last name is a conservative choice, but one we can build on. The one you're being recommended to select is the school name we cannot figure out.
Georgia Regents University? What does it mean anyway? This name has never fully been explained to the community. Instead, many people feel like a) this has been in the works for awhile and 2) it's being jammed down our throat like bad medicine. I went to the dictionary to try to figure out the name. Yes, regent means ruler (or it means a member of a board that governs a university or university system, such as yourself). This new school is combining a medical university and and liberal arts school. It will produce doctors and nurses and businessmen and teachers and people in other strong professions. It's unlikely the New U. will be preparing students to be kings or queens, or even regents.
Some people feel the Georgia Regents name is one Dr. Ricardo Azziz has been pushing for awhile. I've met Dr. Azziz once in the two years he's been in Augusta. He's a sharp man with a great personality. And I wish him the best as he continues to lead this consolidated endeavor. He has made, and he likely will continue to make, many great decisions. But if this truly is his name choice, then this is one decision I disagree with him on -- and I'm not alone.
Thousands of Augustans and I urge you to swiftly reject Georgia Regents University and strongly consider University of Augusta instead. I know some people scoff over the name "Augusta," but the city is known worldwide. Golfers around the globe know the Masters Tournament is played in Augusta, Ga., not in Maine or Missouri. Augusta National Golf Club is not embarrassed by its name. It's never changed to "Georgia National Golf Club," just to get the state's name in the title.
There's an argument the name of the city is not strong enough to carry this new university. I disagree. There are plenty of universities with cities in the title: Boston College, University of Miami, University of Louisville, College of Charleston, Syracuse University -- I can go on. Speaking of Syracuse, N.Y., the area is much like ours in Augusta. The metro area is about the same size (maybe slightly larger), and the city features a major research university. Does Syracuse University need the state name "New York" to help its cause? No.
The University of Augusta (or Augusta University, if you prefer) would have its own unique identity. Besides, we already have 16 universities in the University System of Georgia with the name "Georgia." Sixteen!!! Do we really need another cookie-cutter name that will get lost in the shuffle?
You may be wondering what gives me the right to argue the case for naming the new university? Plenty. As I've already mentioned, the Board of Regents doesn't have an Augusta representative. Also, I am a lifelong Augustan (38 years), and I'm also an Augusta State alumnus.
While I've never named a university, my wife and I were blessed with triplets in 2005. She picked the girls' names, while I chose the boy's name. The easy play would've been to name him after myself and slap the cliche "Jr." tag on him, but I didn't want to do that for one main reason. I wanted him to have his own name, one that will display his own personality, his own identity. By naming this new school Georgia Regents University, you will essentially be naming this school after your own body. Which makes no sense. Why not name it "Georgia Board of Regents University" then? If you name it "Georgia Regents University," we're all going to add the word "Board" anyway. (And this is slightly off topic, but do you know what GRU is anyway? Have you seen the movie "Despicable Me?" If not, do a Google search.)
Certainly, there has to be a level of appreciation for the work the consolidation committee performed paring the list of finalists down to the three names. But here's something they missed: How will this affect athletics?
If you think athletics isn't a major deal, think again. Over the past five years, Augusta State has garnered tens of millions of dollars worth of free advertising on the national, regional and local scenes thanks to its basketball team making a run to the 2008 NCAA Division II national championship game, which was televised live on CBS. The Jaguars followed with two more Elite Eight appearances. Then the golf team took the baton, winning NCAA Division I national championships in golf in 2010 and 2011, becoming the first team in almost three decades to win back-to-back golf titles.
Athletics has brought plenty of attention to Augusta State in recent years. You won't find 3,000 people at a biology lecture. You will find that many people at a Jaguars basketball game, though. That's the power of athletics -- the front door, the face, of many universities. The new university will be known for its medical component, but athletics will continue to be a major player.
When the various sports teams compete around the southeast, much less the nation, they will be carrying the banner of the New U. And do you really want them to be called the "Georgia Regents Jaguars?" That rolls out your mouth with the joy and ease of vomit.
I understand this letter (blog, if you will) is likely a lost cause. Many of you board members already have made up your mind. But the lost causes, as they say, are the one you fight for the hardest. I ask you to please keep an open mind. And I kindly ask you to reject Georgia Regents University and instead choose a name that will make us all proud: University of Augusta.
Thank you for your time reading this.