Business leaders develop strategy on changing name of Augusta's merged univeristy

A group of 20 local business leaders is developing a strategy to push state officials to make University of Augusta the name of the city’s planned consolidated university.

The anonymous group, “Save the A,” intends to post petitions for the public to sign at about 35 businesses across Augusta, according to spokesman Nick Evans. The members also will publicize the contact information for Gov. Nathan Deal, University System of Georgia Board of Regents Chancellor Hank Huckaby and the Board of Regents members so the public can ask officials to intervene.

“It ought to be the University of Augusta, period,” Evans said after the group met Tuesday. “Augusta is a globally accepted and worldwide-recognized brand of quality and prestige. Why would we abandon a brand like that?”

The identities of the group’s members will stay confidential for now, but Evans said the 20 committee members are “a significant list of community leaders” and span “across every ethnic background.”

Evans said the members support the merging of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities but despise the chosen name: Georgia Regents University.

Because the University of Augusta received a more favorable response than GRU in a $45,000 marketing survey paid for by GHSU earlier this year, Evans said school officials should honor the survey results and pleas from the community.

Despite the outcry from the public, the application for approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges for the merged university is being finalized and will be mailed out this week in time to meet an Oct. 1 deadline, said Beth Brigdon, the vice president for institutional effectiveness at GHSU.

Evans said, however, that he is not worried about the deadline, noting that officials with Regent University in Virginia filed a lawsuit last week claiming the GRU name is trademark infringement.

He said the filing could help buy time and that a successful lawsuit could help change the name of the school. However SACS-COC President Belle Wheelan said previously that the accrediting agency does not get involved in the naming process of a school.

“We don’t feel any pressure of a timeline,” Evans said. “If they would go ahead and change it right now and do the right thing and fix it, the timeline is not important. They’re aware of the lawsuit now, and I cannot imagine they would want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a lawsuit when they would have to change the name again.”

Evans said the group is getting “tremendous support” from people who want to help with the campaign. He expects petitions to be placed in businesses soon but was not sure of a date.

The group plans to meet again next week and as often as possible after that.

“I think the chances are good,” Evans said. “I think they’re going to listen to this. They know this campaign is brewing. They know the lawsuit is there. I think they will see the wisdom of making the change.”

Staff writer Tom Corwin contributed to this report.

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Sun, 12/04/2016 - 20:05

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