It might not be Georgia Regents University in the end for the newly merged Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities.
All three names forwarded by the Consolidation Working Group to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents will be considered, the chairman of the board said Monday. The other two are Georgia Arts and Sciences University and the University of Augusta.
“As far as the Board of Regents is concerned, there are three recommendations, and all three of those names are under consideration,” said Benjamin J. Tarbutton III, who represents the 12th Congressional District, which includes Augusta, on the board. In one of two previous consolidation renamings, the Regents went with one of the suggestions. They came up with their own name in the other, university system spokesman John Millsaps said.
“Ultimately, it is their decision,” he said.
The agenda for today’s meeting of the regents listed only one of the three, Georgia Regents University, as the recommended name. That set off a firestorm of protest when it became known Friday.
More than 1,100 opponents of the proposed name already “liked” a Facebook page called “Join if you don’t agree with the new name Georgia Regents University.” Chris Nabholz, a junior at Augusta State, created the page Friday as a way of telling the board that many people in Augusta are not happy with the proposal. Two years ago, Nabholz founded a student group called “Jag Swag” with a goal of boosting school spirit.
“It’s hard to gain pride with that name,” he said about Georgia Regents University.
Nabholz said he hopes the board members will see the page but fears the community’s voice will not be heard.
“It’s not in our hands,” he said, and not in the hands of GHSU President Ricardo Azziz. “To know the community wants it to be University of Augusta, that really means a lot to the students.”
The page had more than 70 comments posted by 1 p.m. Monday. Dean Ozanne, one of the commenters, said he called nearly every member of the board Monday morning and expressed his distaste for the name to the three members he reached.
“It sounds a little narcissistic to me,” said Ozanne, a 2008 Augusta State University graduate, because of its similarity to the governing board’s name.
Without Augusta in the university’s name, the proposed name “just throws away all the history and tradition Augusta has had with the institution,” he said.
Tarbutton said he has seen the feedback on The Augusta Chronicle’s Web site and that if he were to base his vote on that, he would vote for the University of Augusta.
“It’s pretty clear where the local Augustans are on the naming, absolutely,” Tarbutton said.
Several regents have Augusta ties, and they are hearing from people in the community, Tarbutton said.
“There’s a lot of information being shared, and certainly we are very supportive and want to have a strong ‘town and gown’ relationship for the new university in the Augusta area,” he said.
Although Tarbutton said he can’t speak for fellow board members, he plans to base his vote on what he sees as the best name for the university.
“For me, I’m looking for what’s best for the institution long term,” he said. “What’s the best name that is going to represent the true transformation that is going to happen with higher education in the consolidation of those two schools in Augusta?” he said. “What name is going to reflect what the school is going to be in 25 years, a school that not only has a strong Augusta presence but has a statewide presence, with different clinical campuses that are going to be under the auspices of the new name?”
Whichever name emerges today from the board, it will likely get a thorough airing, Tarbutton said.
“If I were a prognosticator, I would predict a great deal of discussion,” he said, laughing.