Merged Augusta universities will focus on expansion, education excellence, presidents say

Wednesday, June 6, 2012 2:17 PM
Last updated Thursday, June 7, 2012 1:22 AM
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Whether they are faculty members, staffers or students of the soon-to-be-consolidated Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities, they share concerns about the unknown.

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Georgia Health Sciences President Ricardo Azziz (left) and Augusta State President William Bloodworth answer questions about the merger.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Georgia Health Sciences President Ricardo Azziz (left) and Augusta State President William Bloodworth answer questions about the merger.

Jasmine Ballard, an ASU junior, is worried about how the merger will change her public relations degree program. Bill Sealey, a five-year employee of ASU’s physical plant, is wondering whether there will be layoffs when two plants become one. And Jack C. Yu, a GHSU professor and the chief of plastic surgery, is simply curious about what’s to come.

“There’s just a lot of confusion among the students,” Ballard said. “I want to know the name that’s going to be on my diploma; I want to know how these changes are going to affect my degree program.”

The presidents of ASU and GHSU met with the public Wednesday to field questions about the merger. Little new information was introduced at either forum on each campus since the meetings held in May, but the sessions were a chance for discussion.

“I know some of you get tired of hearing, ‘Well, we don’t really know,’ but if we don’t know it’s because you’re going to be part of the process,” GHSU President Ricardo Azziz said.

About 100 people attended the lunchtime forum held at ASU, and a group of roughly 30 sat in on the meeting at the GHSU campus later in the afternoon. It was the last set of forums ASU President William Bloodworth will attend before he returns to teaching June 30.

A name has still not been chosen for the new university, but the presidents announced that the Consolidation Working Group will submit a list of six possible names for public comment by mid-June.

A joint strategic plan detailing the overarching vision for the new university will be circulated for feedback in August.

As consolidation progresses, the new university will adopt ASU’s current physical address of 2500 Walton Way and maintain its beloved Jaguars mascot, said Gretchen Caughman, GHSU’s provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs.

Until the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools completes the accreditation of the new university in early 2013, the consolidation committees will be completing plans for the locations for departments and the
organizational charts for faculty.

Several people at the forums expressed concern about whether the culture celebrated at ASU will remain undisturbed. Michael Bishku, an ASU professor of history and the president of the school’s American Association of University Professors chapter, said the faculty wants to continue the same level of input it has in institutional changes.

Azziz said that will continue to a point. He said that he believes in a democratic system but that certain decisions should be left to the people with the knowledge to move the consolidation forward.

“Information without guidance, transparency without education is completely worthless,” Azziz said. “That’s why you need to have a mix of individuals … I also believe in leadership. I do not believe you have leadership that allocates responsibility to others. At the end of the day, the buck
stops here.”

Azziz and Bloodworth said growth will be a high priority for the university. The leaders hope to build more residence halls and dining areas for the institution to be residential for students from across the country rather than a commuter school. That means not allowing the medical focus to overshadow liberal arts, or vice versa; there has to be a perfect blend to create a shared culture.

“My feeling is we have great potential to be the great American university we should be, not just an overgrown medical school,” Azziz said.

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billcass 06/06/12 - 02:30 pm

Not sure, but I don't think mergered is a word. How about merged?

Craig Spinks
Craig Spinks 06/06/12 - 03:01 pm
Prospective Focus on Excellence

Any focus on excellence in the merged university must begin with the admission only of applicants who have the academic skills and character traits required to pursue it successfully.

The new university must not succeed ASU as an academic dead-end for high school graduates with minimal Reading, Writing, Math and thinking skills.

Dr. Craig Spinks, ASU '84/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

JohnBrownAug 06/06/12 - 03:02 pm
Yeah, I saw the "mergered"

Yeah, I saw the "mergered" schools, too. No such word.

Insider Information
Insider Information 06/06/12 - 03:29 pm

So.... there wasn't a focus on academic excellence or expansion prior to now?

Fiat_Lux 06/06/12 - 08:21 pm
Excellent Point, Insider!

From the hype, you would think nothing of value has ever happened at either place up until this shining moment.

JohnBrownAug 06/06/12 - 08:41 pm
The fact is the SAT of

The fact is the SAT of students entering ASU will improve dramatically now that it's merged with the medical school.

twentieth century man
twentieth century man 06/07/12 - 10:33 am
"overgrown medical school"

Unfortunately Dr Azziz misspoke when he called ex-MCG an "overgrown medical school." The real problem is that it is an"undergrown" medical institution. It will take numerous shipping containers full of cash to "upgrade" the newly combined institution-ex-MCG and ex-ASU into a world class comprehensive university.

David Parker
David Parker 06/07/12 - 12:01 pm
Dr. Spinks, you grad in '84

Dr. Spinks, you grad in '84 and have a degree from Augusta College, not ASU. But that's not here nor there. I didn't end up at ASU. I went to several schools and the main reason I attended / grad from ASU was it's in my home town. I didn't feel like I reached a dead-end and had nowhere to go. I felt like I was a forward thinker with adequate skills in the 3 r's. But to each...

Bizkit 06/07/12 - 12:59 pm
While the public schools of

While the public schools of Georgia are a failed system-makes you wonder what "Teacher of the Year" really means-are you the best at being the worst???hee,hee,hee. But the universities and colleges of Georgia are pretty good if not excellent-went to a number of them during my education. Familiar with the ole MCG and Augusta State College and both were good schools. I can see how GHSU may benefit from the union but I don't see the advantages for ASU. Will the ASU faculty salaries jump to those of a similar rank at GHSU??? Lots of questions.

kiwiinamerica 06/07/12 - 04:27 pm
Change fatigue

Can't speak for the folks up on the Hill at ASU but down the road at MCG.......excuse me......GHSU, "change fatigue" is setting in. We've been hearing crapola about "change" for the best part of two years now. First it was the MCG to GHSU transition. Observe banners still draped on GHSU buildings welcoming this brave new world.

Now that's all history; yesterday's news. Today we have another change with which to come to grips; the ASU and GHSU merger.

This sort of never ending upheaval and continual state of flux is morale-sapping at an academic institution. Faculty and staff tire of it quickly. Academic institutions thrive in a stable environment. We're almost at the point now where folks don't care about the new name or the new regime. They just want an end to this continual uncertainty and ongoing talk of "strategic plans", yadda, yadda, yadda..........

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