The group pushing to replace Georgia Regents University with University of Augusta as the name for the consolidated Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities is showing the strength of its support in four full-page ads in Sunday's Augusta Chronicle.
The Save the A campaign’s ads have about 3,600 lines of supporters’ names. But quite a few have more than one person listed per line, so the true number is probably closer to 5,000, campaign spokesman Nick Evans said.
“And this is the first week of the campaign,” he said. “It’s exceeded our expectations, and they continue to come in.”
It is a remarkable breadth of support, crossing ethnic and political lines, Evans said.
“This is a united Augusta front issue,” he said. “It’s business leaders; it’s businesses; it’s doctors, dentists, lawyers, people who work in businesses across this community. It’s restaurants; it’s furniture stores; it’s automobile dealers.”
Supporters also come from surrounding counties, including Columbia, McDuffie, Burke and Aiken, Evans said.
“They’re from all over,” he said. “This is such a unifying issue in Augusta. We’ve got people from other states who want to ‘save the A.’ ”
The next step might be to seek an audience with University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who appoints members of the Board of Regents.
Deal spokesman Brian Robinson has said in the past concerning the controversy that the governor doesn’t get to vote on university names. On Friday, he said in an e-mail that Deal “has an open-door policy, and he’d be happy to meet with any group.”
Evans said the group has not yet asked for an audience but would like to be invited to discuss the issue.
The group is taking pains to say it is grateful for the increased support Deal and the Board of Regents have provided the Augusta universities.
“We want them to know we appreciate the commitment, but we also want them to fix the name,” Evans said.
Even though the consolidated university has applied for approval to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, it will not be difficult to change the name should the university system decide it wants to do that.
Should it happen before the approval decision in December or before a site visit from SACS next year, “we would merely ask the institution to send us a letter documenting the name change,” Belle Wheelan, the president of SACS, said in an e-mail. “That would put this process into July 2013 and, hopefully, a decision will have been made about the name within that time.”