A solution to end this GRU firestorm

It’s been more than a month since the Georgia Board of Regents voted for “Georgia Regents University” to be the new name for the merger of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities. And the firestorm created by the BOR selecting that name continues to burn bright.

 

 

Sure the Regents, Dr. Azziz and their minions, want this mess to blow over. And they expect the consistent mention of millions and millions of dollars earmarked for Augusta by the Regents to help calm the storm. But here’s the problem: we can’t move on until we have closure, and we have way too many unresolved questions.

 

 

Before you think this is solely a naming issue, it is not. This runs much deeper. It’s about the process, the fraudulent way this went down. It’s about honesty. It’s about bureaucratic arrogance. It’s about trust.

 

 

The overwhelming majority of our fine community hates GRU. It will be a terrible brand, the same way New Coke, Betamax and the Edsel were terrible brands. The GRU name is an albatross around Augusta’s neck. Actually, it’s worse. Our community was liquored up with optimism, thinking it actually had a voice in selecting a new name. We awoke with a hangover and a GRU tramp stamp tattooed across our lower back. 

 

Now imagine the amount of “ink regret” on the ASU and GHSU campuses. The coaches at ASU sure as heck don’t want it. Neither do the athletes. (And everyone associated with the two-time national champion Augusta State golf program is furious, because omitting the name 'Augusta' from the school's name is sacrilege in the most famous golfing city in the world.) Not that anyone has shown they care about any of them. This is why morale at both places is in the gutter. Staff and faculty on both campuses are afraid to speak out in worry of losing their jobs. Privately, they wonder if the several ASU chairs already being removed are more than just “coincidental collateral.”

 

 

Sure, Dr. Azziz has been gracious enough to play host to a couple of local forums, addressing the name change and the consolidation of the schools. He’s worked hard to play the part: He seems to be listening and advocating open, honest communication. But the perception of retribution he’s cultivated carries far more weight. Among all the lessons I hope he learns from this process, this one is paramount: Perception is reality, and that reality is what dictates your staff trust in you.

 

 

Dr. Azziz also has a problem with the community’s perception. He’s been portrayed as an emperor with no clothes and lampooned as an uncaring cartoon villain. He’s been called dishonest, aloof and haughty. And what's to say he hasn't earned each of those characterizations?

 

 

He wasted more than $45,000 in taxpayer money on a name study that he promptly ignored, only to stencil his favorite name in the place of other preferred monikers. (As an aside: Dr. Azziz wants this new university to be a “world-class” research university, right? But he ignored research himself when it came to the name. How would he feel if his own doctors ignored research in their respective fields?)

 

 

That’s a rebuff of our city, community and region. (It also flies in the face of the University System of Georgia’s Code of Ethics – especially the sections dealing with honesty and acting as good stewards of taxpayer resources.)

 

 

Then he turned around and placed the crosshairs of blame squarely on the Regents. From the Sept. 7 forum: “There’s been a tremendous exaggeration in the amount of influence I may or may not have had in the process. My job is to advise my Regents about the pros and cons of the names….At the end of the day, the Regents weighed these pros and cons and made a decision, 17-1. At the end of the day, I actually can’t tell the Regents what to do….I don’t know why they made the decision. They didn’t share that with me.”

 

 

But at least one Regent has publicly said that Dr. Azziz did push hard for the GRU name (a claim backed up privately by other Regents). In fact, when the time came for the board to vote, the list of three choices – which also included University of Augusta and Georgia Arts & Sciences University – had been pared to show only GRU. (Also, consider this: Of the 18 regents, SEVEN (!) are either currently members of the Georgia Health Sciences Health System Board of Directors or are former members. So Azziz had a direct line to seven regents – almost half the board – to get his way. Conflict of interest, anyone?....And for the record, none of the Regents are on any boards at Augusta State).

 

 

Trust me, the Regents are not blame-free in this. Several – including chairman Ben Tarbutton – have vehemently stated the decision has been made and they cannot – will not – revisit it.

 

 

But I have a proposition for the Regents, one that would go far in soothing local emotions and calming that firestorm. Why not hold a special meeting here in Augusta in the near future? Take an afternoon and listen to those who are directly affected (you know, those folks that Dink NeSmith cited when casting the lone dissenting vote against GRU). I’ll even suggest a time and date. How about noon, Sept. 26, at the Augusta State amphitheater? We’ll provide lunch. We’ll be hospitable. Just hear us out. (And I'll throw out another suggestion: Keep GRU as an umbrella name for the different campuses, but allow the University of Augusta to represent at least the Summerville campus. It's not perfect, but it's a better solution than the one we have now.)

 

 

And there is a rule right there in the Regents' own by-laws that allows them to reassess the naming debacle. According to the University System of Georgia Bylaws of the Board of Regents, under Bylaw V. 1., “A Committee of the Board shall not consider any request for reexamination of matters that have been previously acted upon by the Board within a period of one year unless, upon presentation of new evidence, the Chair of the Committee determines that it should be reconsidered.”

 

 

I think that ignored nationwide survey, which included 200 faculty members at other institutions and pointed to University of Augusta as the preferred name in three different rounds, should be evidence enough.

 

 

Look, it’s clear that Dr. Azziz and, apparently some others, abhor the idea of Augusta being included in the name. It’s too geographically limiting, they say. Really? Remember when the Augusta National Golf Club recently accepted Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, and the headlines around the globe read, “Augusta adds first female members”? This isn’t Augusta, Maine, we’re talking about. This is the Augusta that James Brown proudly sang about on his tours around the world. Augusta is a name of prominence, and it’s sad these educational empty chairs just don’t get it.

 

 

And answer me another question. Why on earth would we to add the name ‘Georgia’ to this next great university? So we can stand out, just like the other 16 institutions in the University System of Georgia with the name ‘Georgia’? So how exactly is Georgia Regents University going to distinguish itself from say Georgia Perimeter College or East Georgia State College or Georgia State University or Georgia College and State University?

 

 

I am calling on the Board of Regents to make a good faith effort on behalf of Augusta. Show us that you can take the faculty, staff, students and citizens into account when you make a decision. Show us that everything that is secret can be brought into the light. The window is closing fast. The new name goes to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) next month. If approved, the tattoo becomes permanent. And who really wants “Georgia Regents University Jaguars” as a tramp stamp anyway?

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Little Lamb
49094
Points
Little Lamb 09/13/12 - 10:31 am
3
1
Excellent summary of the

Excellent summary of the events.

Another suggestion for a solution would be to compromise: Get rid of the GRU name and agree that Augusta also not be in the name. The name Regents is hideous and repulsive to 98% of the people around here, and the name Augusta is hideous and repulsive to Dr. Azziz.

One name I suggested early in the game was Central Savannah River University.

Acronymn: CSRU

The name has a familiar ring to local citizens, and its geographical slant puts us on the map for out of state (and out of country) recruiting. No one complains of the name Northwestern University nor of Southern Cal. I'll bet there are several universities with the word "central" in them.

Jake
34085
Points
Jake 09/13/12 - 10:38 am
4
0
Sounds like a very fair

Sounds like a very fair proposal but if Mr Tarbutton has already stated that the name issue will not be re-visited, so why should they come? If they come to eat lunch and listen and still go away with the GRU name intact then would they have done any good? I would like to see them face the criticism first hand if only for the local citizens to vent their frustrations.

Dixieman
17411
Points
Dixieman 09/13/12 - 10:57 am
7
0
Just have our local

Just have our local delegation to the General Assembly introduce legislation changing the name. No one outside Augusta cares about this issue, so their representatives and senators will vote to support this in return for future support of their local issues. A law passed by the General Assembly overrides anything the Board of Regents did. End of problem.

Little Lamb
49094
Points
Little Lamb 09/13/12 - 11:12 am
4
0
One other tidbit

One other tidbit ..........

Dr. Azziz browbeats the people who come to his forums with this statement: “There were four institutional mergers, not just one. In all of the other three, there was a city name involved and the merged university did not emerge with a city name.”

Well, it's a typical apples and oranges comparison. Here are who were merged:

Waycross College with South Ga. State College

Gainesville State College with North Ga. College & State University

Macon State College with Middle Ga. College

Can you see the difference? Each of these pairings involve institutions in two different cities! Contrast that here where the two institutions are firmly inside of Augusta.

Also note that with the exception of NGC&SU (that's a mouthful of a name), these three mergers involved two-year institutions.

Here is a story from last May about the mergers before the GRU firestorm hit. Notice how few comments are there.

Tarbutton

whyme
2109
Points
whyme 09/13/12 - 11:22 am
2
1
Yesterday I received a letter

Yesterday I received a letter from the alumnae relations department which brought up the issue and asked for continued support of the school. While it described the name selection process, it conveniently failed to mention that, out of the 3 names identified as choices through the polls, Dr. Azziz ignored the popular choice and pushed forward his vote. Tempting as I am to conveniently fail to pay my alumnae dues this year, is it fair to punish my department from which I graduated because of this?

BamaMan
2687
Points
BamaMan 09/13/12 - 11:41 am
3
0
Phenominal letter Mr. Gay!

Phenominal letter Mr. Gay!

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 09/13/12 - 03:01 pm
2
0
A very articulated recap

A very articulated recap presented in a fair and balanced manner.

Copies should be sent to our GA House Reps and the GA. Regents.
with 10's of 1000's of signatures attached.

Sean Moore

would it be permissible to setup & announce a signing location using this comment section?

galaxygrl
1350
Points
galaxygrl 09/13/12 - 03:02 pm
3
0
Dixieman, I suggested to

Dixieman, I suggested to local house members that they should introduce a bill to do just what you said. They told me that the money promised by the Regents was very important and they didn't want to lose it. They feel there are many competing areas around the state that might want to grab the money if we don't "just go along". I reminded them we were the second largest city in the state but they don't seem to have the power to stand for what is important to the community over the will of the BOR.

henrystripe
62
Points
henrystripe 09/13/12 - 03:29 pm
2
0
Well written and well thought

Well written and well thought out. I would add just one small thing. Azziz should publicly refund the wasted $45,000 out of his own pocket to the appropriate authority. It won't make all the animosity go away, but would take some of the sting out

nnaugusta
533
Points
nnaugusta 09/13/12 - 03:34 pm
1
0
"Several – including chairman

"Several – including chairman Ben Tarbutton – have vehemently stated the decision has been made and they cannot – will not – revisit it."

Ummm, Wanna bet mr. tarbutton? When the good college in Virginia get through with you and your crew, you'll be revisiting it alright. Y'all will get your azziz's handed to you, watch and see! I hope it bankrupts your little group trying to fight this in court.

"Yesterday I received a letter from the alumnae relations department which brought up the issue and asked for continued support of the school."

Our letter went directly into the trash can. Not one more dime will be given to azziz and his Georgia regents puppets like tarbutton.

As it the past, capitalization was omitted on purpose. They are not deserving of capitals.

So azziz, how does it feel to be the most hated person in Augusta?

Sean Moores
1061
Points
Sean Moores 09/13/12 - 03:40 pm
1
0
@ Open Curtain You should

@ Open Curtain
You should probably send the information to me first so I can make sure it is legit. It also could be a follow-up story.

Old Timmer
260
Points
Old Timmer 09/13/12 - 03:44 pm
3
0
I'm just out of hope on this.

I'm just out of hope on this. All the local politicians (notice I did not say public servants or statesmen) from the commission to the statehouse are nothing but whores at the money trough. Just remember it when they run again & that definitely includes you Gov. Deal.

Riverman1
93737
Points
Riverman1 09/13/12 - 04:37 pm
0
2
I agree with Chris. I've been

I agree with Chris. I've been saying THAT'S the way to let Azziz and the regents save face and keep Augusta in the name. GRU can be the umbrella if you really want to keep the silly name. ASU, AU or whatever can be the undergrad school. GHUS or MCG for the med school and so on. Afterall there has to be a way to differentiate the undergrad portion from the med school. Right?

kiwiinamerica
982
Points
kiwiinamerica 09/13/12 - 09:46 pm
0
0
Sorry Chris but a tertiary
Unpublished

Sorry Chris but a tertiary educational institution cannot keep changing its name in an effort to appease popular opinion.

The state medical school has changed from MCG to GHSU to GRU in the space of a couple of years. That's already way too much change. In fact, it's a joke. Now you want to change it again? Where does this stop? Does it, in fact, have an end?

So the change you're proposing will be the final change? Really? How do you know? What if the next name is not universally accepted and a pressure group is formed to agitate for another change? Do we repeat the process again?

This insanity has already gone way too far and the underlying problem is the merger. These two schools have nothing in common apart from their geographical proximity and finding a name for this peculiar hybrid was always going to be a problem. When you merge the state medical college with a school for kids who can't read, expect problems.

prov227
3468
Points
prov227 09/13/12 - 09:51 pm
3
0
Augusta University is the

Augusta University is the unofficial name of the new consolidated university. That's all. The medical school is the Medical College of Georgia. There are also other schools within Augusta University. GHSU is in the trash bin.

shrimp for breakfast
5641
Points
shrimp for breakfast 09/14/12 - 03:34 am
2
0
Azziz had an agenda from the

Azziz had an agenda from the start. He knew exactly what he was going to do and was not about to deviate from his plan. From the start he knew it was going to be called Georgia Regents University even with that cock and bull story about the community being involved. I firmly believe this and also know you should never trust a person who looks like a grown up Eddie Munster.

Riverman1
93737
Points
Riverman1 09/14/12 - 05:34 am
1
0
I really think we have him

I really think we have him with a technicality. The undergrad college has to be called something to show it's separate from the medical school. We already have a Hull Business College for the business part, but for all the undergrad programs and sports a name is needed. ASU will simply be a division of GRU. It has to be called SOMETHING. Azziz and the public are both happy.

rebellious
21881
Points
rebellious 09/14/12 - 07:54 am
3
0
Great article Chris. The

Great article Chris. The simile of "Our community was liquored up with optimism, thinking it actually had a voice in selecting a new name. We awoke with a hangover and a GRU tramp stamp tattooed across our lower back" is so vivid and descriptive of how this naming went down.

Butterbean
397
Points
Butterbean 09/14/12 - 10:16 am
1
0
I feel for those who are torn

I feel for those who are torn between giving and not giving to the institution(s) that they have loved for so many years. Yes, it is support for the future. Yes, it is support for the students. Yes, it is a tax deduction. Why did you give in the past? I HATE the new name. I HATE to give to the new name. Yes, I gave. But not nearly as much as I have given in the past. The jury is still out for the future.

GuyGene
1483
Points
GuyGene 09/14/12 - 12:43 pm
1
0
Chris, this is the best I

Chris, this is the best I have read about this naming issue! Excellent job! This quote is almost priceless:

"Our community was liquored up with optimism, thinking it actually had a voice in selecting a new name. We awoke with a hangover and a GRU tramp stamp tattooed across our lower back."

We can only hope that somehow the name will be again changed to maybe "University of Augusta". For me, I just like Augusta State University - the Medical College could come under that name - I think. What a waste of our tax dollars...

Fiat_Lux
16442
Points
Fiat_Lux 09/14/12 - 12:52 pm
1
0
Unless the legislature or the

Unless the legislature or the governor makes them change the horrid affront, these lords of all they survey are just going to act like there's nothing happening.

That old "Let them eat cake" attitude generally doesn't pan out very well, if history is any indicator. Being misled, disappointed and lied to doesn't begin to arouse people the way being dismissed does.

And boy, have we been dismissed.

Little Lamb
49094
Points
Little Lamb 09/14/12 - 09:31 pm
0
0
Regarding Alumni Association

Regarding Alumni Association fund raising, WhyMe asked:

Is it fair to punish my department from which I graduated because of this?

It is not punishment, WhyMe. Withholding contributions to the Alumni Association is a statement of purpose. Money is the only thing they understand. Write your letter stating that you will resume contributions when the Board of Regents changes its mind about the repulsive, hideous, and abominable GROOOO name.

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