In August, university officials revealed blueprints showing that “Georgia Regents University Augusta” would replace “Augusta State University” on the brick pillars at the school’s entrance on Walton Way and other gateway signs throughout the campuses.
The plans for the $3.8 million project were vetted by students, faculty and staff members and authorized by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, according to the university’s newsletter, GReport.
University officials changed direction, however, and signs installed last month read “Georgia Regents University” above “University System of Georgia,” with no “Augusta” in sight.
“Basically I feel like they have stabbed every citizen of Augusta in the back by eliminating our name,” said Fleming Norvell, who donated money to build the school’s J. Fleming Norvell Golf House. “They haven’t lived up to their word in many ways, so the fact ‘Augusta’ was left off the signs really doesn’t surprise me.”
David Brond, GRU’s senior vice president of communications and marketing, said the staff decided it would make more sense to have the university’s official name on the gateways to the school; that would eliminate confusion for visitors and stay consistent with branding guidelines.
“The final signage that is being placed as we speak on the campuses now has been tweaked, yes, from what we were sharing, but those were conceptual ideas,” Brond said.
Many in the community were outraged when the GRU name was chosen for the consolidated ASU and Georgia Health Sciences University, even after a $45,000 study found that the University of Augusta was the top choice in all of its national, state and local surveys.
President Ricardo Azziz announced a compromise in October 2012 with Save the A, a group of business people and community members who organized against the change. Azziz said the GRU name would remain but that Georgia Regents University Augusta would be used by all athletic teams and appear on all materials, shirts and cups and in the logo.
Save the A Chairman Nick Evans said he understood that to include entryway signs and any other signs promoting the school, because Azziz agreed to include “Augusta” in the logo.
“They have not lived up to our agreement, and they have not done what they said they would do,” Evans said. “It’s disturbing and it’s unfair, and it again puts us in a position that there’s distrust with the leadership of the school.”
Evans stressed that his group was never against the concept of the consolidated university and supported the goal to become a top American research institution, but felt the naming process was conducted unfairly.
Brond said “Augusta” will be included on flags, posters and interior signs but not on the main gateways. The sign project is in the beginning of three phases and will take months to complete on the health sciences campus and on the satellite campuses in Athens, Albany, Rome and Savannah.
Brond said marketing is constantly being tweaked and that updated brand guidelines will be issued this year. In those revised guidelines, Brond said, athletic teams and other marketing will continue to use the Georgia Regents University Augusta name.
“Really it’s not about the signage; it’s about the educational quality provided, the academic programs, the research,” Brond said. “The signage is literally just a gateway to get people to our campus.”