Opponents denounce Georgia Regents University name

The reaction to the name Georgia Regents University in Augusta was visceral and immediate, and protest efforts continued Wednesday against the name for the consolidated Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities.

To a GHSU official, the response shows concern and passion about the universities, which can become a good thing.

A Facebook page titled “Everyone Against ‘Georgia Re­gents University’ Sound Off,” started by Chris Blanco, had been “liked” more than 2,700 times. His friend Chris Nabholz had similar success with a Facebook page protesting the name before the vote.

“I honestly thought that would change things before the vote,” said Nabholz, a junior at ASU. “The Board of Regents just kind of brushed us off their shoulders.”

With the continued reaction, however, the two men are trying to bring together a community that seems to have coalesced around near-universal rejection of the name.

“I just feel like no one in Au­gusta had a say,” said Blanco, a 2010 graduate of ASU.

His Facebook page is urging people to contact GHSU President Ricardo Azziz, the Univesity System of Georgia Board of Regents and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.

“(GHSU has received) both positive and negative feedback and thoughts, and we appreciate the enthusiasm of all of these constituents,” said David L. Brond, the school’s senior vice president for communications and marketing. “Passion is good, and we hope to drive energy off of that and to make this a positive.”

“The most vocal are the people who are going to be either very positive or very negative,” Brond said. “Our real work now is in coming together as a community to make this the best decision, the best choice. We are listening to the reaction, and we are really beginning the work of moving forward in a positive direction to create some enthusiasm in the community.”

Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said the governor, who did not have a vote in the naming decision, received eight to 10 e-mails and an equal number of calls on the matter.

Robinson said Deal is committed to “making the university one of the top 50 health sciences institutions in the nation, and he’s backing that up by putting the necessary resources into the Augusta campus,” including a proposed $50 million in capital projects approved by the regents Tuesday.

The university system has gotten comments through its Web site and e-mails, but spokesman John Millsaps said he has been in meetings and has not reviewed them.

An online petition to change the name to the University of Augusta, one of the other three finalists the regents were to consider, had gained nearly 800 signatures in just more than a day.

Many people were speaking out, and the phrase “slap in the face” was used often.

“Georgia Regents University is an absolute slap in the face and abomination to not only the residents of Augusta, but also the students and employees ... who work hard to make MCG/GHSU into what it is today,” said Adam Kleba, a dietary services employee at Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics.

To Becky McCulley, who worked at the university for more than 23 years as a secretary, it was “a true slap in the face to the citizens of Augusta.” She said it is just the start of a downhill slide in the university’s relationship with the community.

“It’s just slowly disassociating itself from the city of Augusta,” McCulley said. “It won’t be long before it’s gone.”

To Jennifer Taylor, the name “sounds depressing,” and it wouldn’t take much rearranging to make it “Georgia Rejects.”

Without “Augusta” in the name, Giovanna Morrison said, she is losing interest in getting her master’s degree in nursing from the university.

“It has really changed my mind about where I’m going to go to graduate school,” she said.

Much of the criticism was leveled personally at Azziz, who will head the school. McCulley said a newspaper photo of Azziz “left out his crown.”

Catherine Collingsworth graduated from ASU in May with a degree in communications, and she lovingly referred to the school as “Harvard on the Hill.” The new name misses the boat and doesn’t reflect anything about the two schools, Collingsworth said.

The name should “allow both to retain their identities,” she said.

$10 million gift to GHSU paves way for others
FORUMS SET

Georgia Health Sciences University President Ricardo Azziz and Dr. Shirley Strum Kenny, Augusta State University’s interim president, will hold two open forums on the merger of the schools on Aug. 16: one at noon at ASU’s Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre, the other at 3 p.m. in the Lee Auditorium at GHSU.

SOCIAL MEDIA RESPONSE

Opponents of the name Georgia Regents University have turned to the Web to have their voices heard:

• Facebook pages have cropped up in opposition to the name. “Everyone Against ‘Georgia Regents University’ Sound Off” got about 2,500 “likes” within 24 hours of being created.

• On Twitter, dozens tweeted their opposition to Georgia Health Sciences University President Ricardo Azziz. Butch Holley
(@jwbholley) tweeted: “Hate the name Georgia Regents University? Tell @ricardoazziz. Maybe a few 100 tweets each day until he leaves town would be in order. ...”

• Andrew John Tarr (@AugustaDrew) uaged people to go straight to Gov. Nathan Deal: “The @BORUSG Board of Regents is appointed by the Governor. Express your displeasure to Gov Deal.”

• Several petitions were also posted to change.org. Meredith Berce, of Augusta, created “Change Georgia Regents to University of Augusta!: Stop this horrible university name Georgia Regents University from standing.” It received more than 800 signatures in 24 hours.

– From staff reports

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