The presidents of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities on Monday denied rampant speculation that jobs will be cut during the consolidation of the two institutions, citing already-lean budget and staffing operations.
At forums held at each school, they acknowledged the need to address parking, housing and tuition.
GHSU President Ricardo Azziz said merging the universities does not mean losing positions because the same number of people will still need to be served. Organizational structures and, in some cases, job responsibilities, will change, however.
“At the end of the day, we have not found a lot of spare parts that we really didn’t need, as far as we can tell,” Azziz said.
ASU President William Bloodworth added that offices aren’t overstaffed and that the risk of layoffs is low.
“I can’t say, ‘Don’t be anxious,’ but I think I can say your job security is probably as good going into consolidation as it would have been had we not gone into consolidation,” Bloodworth said.
It will mean joining two different missions and cultures, said Dr. Paul Dainer, an associate professor of medicine at GHSU. Augusta State “is not a statewide institution” like GHSU, Dainer said.
“It meets the needs of our community,” he said.
The newly merged university will have a bigger mission, Azziz said.
“It will have a statewide and national presence,” he said, though merging cultures might be difficult at first.
Retired ASU faculty member Michelle Benedict feared that the campus atmosphere she loved there might be lost.
“What are we going to do to preserve the climate of happiness and bring that (to GHSU)?” she asked.
Bloodworth assured her, “We’ll get the best of both worlds.”
The subject of parking has come up at every meeting, and Azziz said it is something that might not be addressed with surface parking.
“We may have to begin to think about parking decks,” he said.
After the merger, tuition at ASU, which is considered a state university in the University System of Georgia, will have to move up to the research university level, something that will be decided by the Board of Regents, Azziz said. The intent of leadership is to try to “hold harmless” current students at the present level and then bring tuition up gradually, with an idea of trying to keep tuition affordable, he said.
The aim is to grow and to attract students not only statewide but also from other states. To do that, the new university will need student housing, including some on campus so that parents feel safer sending their children there, Azziz said.
“We need it, at least for freshmen,” he said.
“That’s obviously in the future,” Bloodworth said.
Benedict said many of the complaints she has heard from the ASU side concern uncertainty about positions and the feeling that if two positions on both campuses are equal, the GHSU person will take precedence. Azziz said there won’t be parallel institutions or a mishmash.
“We will not be two universities stuck together with duct tape,” he said. “We will be one university.”