Augusta State University faculty, students concerned about merger with Georgia Health Sciences University

ASU officials wonder what move will mean

Augusta State University professor William Reese didn’t get much sleep Monday night.

He was up late, researching what a merger between Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities would really mean.

When the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents approved the consolidation Tuesday, he found the vote didn’t answer many questions.

“At this point, we just don’t know anything,” said Reese, a professor of criminal justice and social work.

Opinions are split among ASU faculty about whether the university merger is a blessing or a curse, but one shared feeling is that of uncertainty. Their views are being formed mainly on speculation, but perspectives vary by departments.

Peggy Ruth Geren, a professor in ASU’s Department of Educational Leadership, Counseling and Special Education, said she hopes the value of the department is not shadowed by the extensive medical focus.

“We’re not just some amorphous kind of place,” Geren said. “We’re unique. ... I’m going to trust that people realize how many students we prepare, that teaching is a critical profession.”

In ASU’s Chemistry and Physics department, assistant professor Chad Stephens thinks the merger will bring more educational opportunities for students and more funding sources for the institution.

With a growing nuclear energy industry in the region, Stephens said it makes sense for a university to have a larger focus on the sciences.

“There’s certain models for arts and sciences to exist very well with medical schools,” he said.

Reese said he is mostly concerned the merger will disrupt three main components of how ASU operates.

First, ASU faculty have enjoyed some shared governance of the school with administration in such areas as hiring and curriculum decisions. A merger could put more power in administration.

And while ASU focuses on liberal arts, GHSU’s mission is health and science. Reese wonders how or whether those priorities will blend. And he is most concerned that admission policies could change from the current open enrollment.

“Education is a ladder. Intellectually, financially, culturally, it’s the way to a better society. ... I would be very discouraged if anything that we did as a result of this merger would in any way compromise that open admission policy.”

The lack of information about the merger also bothers some students.

Barinaadaa Kara, a senior political science major and the president of ASU’s Student Government Association, said he believes the merger was talked about long ago behind closed doors and should have been brought to the public sooner.

Staff Writer Tiffannie Meador contributed to this article.

 

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