Education

More News | |

Analysis: Regents defend school name choice

  • Follow Government

ATLANTA -- Selecting a name for the merged university in Augusta was an inevitable collision course, like parents deciding which grandfather to name the first child after.

In this case, should it be named after the city or after the board?

Ironically, both camps say they are motivated by the same goal, even if they see different strategies for getting there.

Residents of Augusta and the Board of Regents that governs Georgia’s 35 public colleges both say they want to set the school on a path for national prominence.

When other communities were ducking the merging of their colleges, Augusta volunteered. Local civic leaders motivated by boosterism thought having one, pretty-good-sized university would give them more heft than having two smaller schools.

Locals argue that including the city in the moniker will piggyback on the Augusta’s reputation for hosting the annual Masters Tournament. Actually, they hope the name will add to Augusta’s renown as the school grows in stature.

Of course, success hosting a golf tournament doesn’t necessarily suggest to the public that the city would necessarily shine in the field of medical research. While the Masters may be one of the classiest of sporting events, it has nothing to do with cutting-edge science or academics.

Despite a few examples like Boston University and the University of Chicago, schools named for small cities tend to be community colleges or undistinguished state schools, and that’s a connotation the board wants to avoid.

“If we’re going to have a first-class institution, which we’re working to build in Augusta, we need to have a national presence,” said Regent Neil L. Pruitt, Jr.

That strikes Augustans as an insult.

Residents of Georgia’s Second City have a noticeable inferiority complex which makes them seem a little whiny to people in Atlanta. It’s no secret that while most Atlantans enjoy football in Athens and sightseeing in Savannah, they don’t feel much connection to the rest of the state.

Pruitt, for instance, said he was relying on the fact that the names were tested nationally by a marketing survey firm.

Of course, of all the words in the English language to pick other than “Augusta,” the board may still have wound up with a liability. For one thing, it could spark a lawsuit from Regent University in Virginia, a faith-based school founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson and the holder of federal trademark protection for use of the name in an educational setting. If not a lawsuit, then perhaps a lightning bolt from Heaven.

Regent University isn’t known for science research any more than the Masters Tournament is. If nothing else, the name could lead to confusion, notes Regent University President Carlos Campo.

Like a father who names his son Junior, the members of the Board of Regents says critics are looking at it the wrong way. The name guarantees they’ll continue to have a protective sentiment toward their namesake school, the favorite child, so to speak. No parent would say that in hearing range of the other kids, but look at what else the board did moments after christening the school.

The board voted unanimously to build a $100 million cancer center as part of a goal to get national recognition. It approved $2 million more in funds to jumpstart residency programs for the school’s graduates, and it endorsed $5 million to equip the medical commons building it also agreed to expand.

The total of projects under way or approved comes to $1.2 billion that the state will infuse into the Augusta economy, notes Regent Tommy Hopkins, a graduate of the Medical College of Georgia.

“To continue this exponential growth, the university needs a partner from more than just Augusta,” he said. “We need a name that donors from throughout Georgia can support and not feel they are abandoning their local colleges and universities.”

He adds that the donors from Augusta he surveyed can live with the new name.

While the members of the board may feel more affection for the school than for the city it’s located in, they argue that the interests of the school and the city aren’t in conflict.

“We need to acknowledge the concerns of the citizens of Augusta and make sure that, irregardless of this vote here today, make sure they know their voices are important and that (in the ) long term their support for that school is just so critical,” said Regent Kessel Stelling, an Augusta native who now lives in Columbus.

In last week’s vote, the regents -- probably with the prior approval of the governor who grew up just south of Augusta -- say they selected the name because they’re as devoted to the school as Augustans are to their hometown.

“We stand on the cusp of what I believe is going to be the next great, research university in America,” said Regent Dean Alford. “The vision is going to benefit them in Augusta and have a global impact.”

Comments (36) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 08/11/12 - 08:38 pm
1
4
I agree dave
Unpublished

The merger was a dumb idea. It would have made sense if they were comparable institutions.. but this was always a marriage of unequals. It just never made sense to me.. and thus we get this kind of name. I think Georgia Arts and Medical University would have been better.

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 08/11/12 - 08:43 pm
0
4
Inferiority complex
Unpublished

hate to break it to you, but yes Augusta does have an inferiority complex.. maybe because the city never became the metropolis that William Bartram predicted. Anyone ever seen that quote on the plaque at the Riverwalk? In any case Augusta is a fairly decent mid-sized south-eastern city. No it will never be an Atlanta, a Charlotte or a Savannah or Charleston.. but it's not a bad place overall. Maybe people should just be satisfied with the way it is instead of always pretending the city is something it is not. Countyman's redundant copy and paste postings of all of the Chamber of Commerce propaganda is proof that Augusta has an inferiority complex.

Fiat_Lux
17976
Points
Fiat_Lux 08/11/12 - 09:30 pm
2
0
Countyman is hardly proof of anything about Augusta

He's just a cheerleader.

But I happen to agree with you, Shellman, that Augusta is a decent, etc, city, and that it might not be a bad idea to embrace what it is instead of trying to be something it is not.

The same might be said of ASU/MCG/GHSU/GRUnt as well. They were really nice places once upon a time not so long ago.

KSL
163767
Points
KSL 08/12/12 - 04:21 pm
2
0
It was a great place when we

It was a great place when we moved to the area in 1969. Still thought it was a great place in 1994 some years later, even as late as the mid to late middle 2000's. Then it started going downhill fast. Lost its attractiveness to those of us who chose to travel shop and to eat in the big town. I am speaking about your downtown district, countyman. Sorry. You may see it is coming back, but so far as lately goes, Broad Street lacks a lot of the feeling of being safe. In fairness, I will say that as a former social work caseworker, there are places in Aiken County, I, at my current agendas and in the current conditions, I would not set foot in these days at any time alone.

stacey fortson
3
Points
stacey fortson 08/11/12 - 10:32 pm
1
0
Dumb and dumber

Regent Kessel Stelling who voted for this hated name clearly doesn't know the English language well. "Irregardless" which he used to insist we like the name any way, is not a word. Clearly, a significant problem our public institutions have is their guiding deciders don't know the language.

KSL
163767
Points
KSL 08/11/12 - 10:37 pm
1
0
Shellman, sorry to

Shellman, sorry to disappoint you on this small issue, but I would still rather live in Augusta than Savannah, Columbus, Macon, or Atlanta. I guess growing up in the state of GA, outskirts of Atlanta and living for 3 years in Macon just wasn't enough to turn me against this area of the 2 States.

shugirl
3
Points
shugirl 08/11/12 - 11:07 pm
1
0
I wish people would stop

I wish people would stop saying Augusta is "small" and in particular stop saying it is smaller than Savannah. Augusta is the second largest city in the largest state east of the Mississippi. It is small mentality to say it is anything less.

The size of our city should have nothing to do with the new name of the university. Take a look at the names of the other six universities merging into three. All have a link to the school's location. This re-name was a political decision. Period. End of story.

KSL
163767
Points
KSL 08/11/12 - 11:09 pm
1
0
Stacey Fortson, your last

Stacey Fortson, your last name is one of the last names of one of my father's best friends decades ago. It was a prominent Eastern Ga. name. Are you related?

onlysane1left
223
Points
onlysane1left 08/11/12 - 11:18 pm
1
4
The birther discussions were

The birther discussions were a lot better than this whine! Get over it already!!!!

KSL
163767
Points
KSL 08/12/12 - 12:09 am
1
0
You get over it. Or at least

You get over it. Or at least make a comment that divertb the thread. Just please don't think you and your wishes control the direction of the thread just by a dictate.

Dawgfan62
167
Points
Dawgfan62 08/12/12 - 09:30 am
1
1
The University of Georgia is

The University of Georgia is not called The University of Athens, Georgia Tech is not the University of Atlanta, and Georgia Southern is not the University of Statesboro. While Georgia Regents University is certainly not an ideal name, to insist on having Augusta in the name seems a little unreasonable and runs contrary to how most in state universities are currently named.

Shellman
623
Points
Shellman 08/12/12 - 12:22 pm
1
3
Right on Dawfan62
Unpublished

You are thinking about this the right way. The name University of Augusta would be fine if this was merely supposed to be a community college primarily serving the population of the Augusta area.. BUT this is supposed to be a statewide university with aims at national prominence. Giving it such a provincial name would be very shortsighted and would hinder the ability to reach out beyond the Augusta area.

Augusta may not be a small city but it is not a big city either that can pull off having a University named after it that would have national prominence. I can think of only a few examples : Boston University, University of Chicago and University of Pittsburgh, or more commonly known as Pitt. As the article says: "Despite a few examples like Boston University and the University of Chicago, schools named for small cities tend to be community colleges or undistinguished state schools, and that’s a connotation the board wants to avoid." This analysis is dead on. I guess the local just cannot accept the fact that Augusta is not the center of the universe, and despite one week out of the year, it is rarely on the minds of most people outside of the area. When do you ever hear about Augusta other than The Masters? Maybe when someone decides to drive his truck through the mall in the middle of the night?

A University of Augusta would have the national prominence of say a University of Macon or a University of Huntsville or a University of Greensboro... cities of comparable size to Augusta. Let's be serious folks, Augusta is only marginally the second largest city in the state and that is because it is consolidated. If Savannah and Chatham County ever consolidated it would become the state's second largest city beating out Augusta by over 50,000 people. The difference in population between Augusta and Columbus is only about 9,000 ppl. There is not a significant difference among Augusta, Macon, Savannah, and Columbus in regards to size... though Savannah is probably better known than the others as a major tourist destination.

I was sort of hoping that some wealthy philanthropist would step forward and donate $100 million to the school and it would just be named after them. You know that is how Duke got its name (It's not University of Durham btw) and it is perhaps the most prestigious university in the South.. and medical is one of its main areas of prominence.

AC JAG 74
3
Points
AC JAG 74 08/12/12 - 05:00 pm
1
0
Got an idea

I hear UGA is looking for a new president next year. Why don't we just help them with the search and offer our new esteemed president. I would like to see how putting his mark on the school in Athens would go over.

Seriously, if this is to be, the marketing campaign for the new U is going to have to be unbelievable for this to be successful. As a graduate of the old AC, I would naturally like to have seen Augusta in the name. It seems that a lot of people commenting did not attend either school so they really don't have the same skin in the game. Naturally it hurts all of us who did. History does matter. How they plan to overcome basically throwing out 200 years of history at MCG and 100 at ASU will be interesting to see.

My fear is that this controversy will hurt the new U for years to come. No matter what you say about the city of Augusta, people, both alumni and not, who reside here were supportive of the merger. Without that support in the future how great can the institution become? The loss of the Chronicle's and Mr. Morris's support is a PR disaster of monumental proportions. I hope all of you that support the new name are going to step up to the plate and back up your words with donations to the new U, because a lot of alumni are going to have a lot of trouble feeling connected to the administration of a school that just ignores their input.

AugustaProf
138
Points
AugustaProf 08/12/12 - 08:47 pm
1
1
University of ...

I'm so sick of this whole thing. Equating Augusta to Statesboro or Macon? Come on. Augusta IS well known worldwide. I have traveled all over North America and Europe and never once had anything but a smile and "oh yeah, Augusta" coming from the mouths of folks when I said where I came from. Certainly WAY more well known than any other city or town in Georgia save Atlanta and perhaps Savannah. The survey results more than confirmed this. Heck, Roosevelt and Truman even chose the USS Augusta (yes, named for THIS Augusta) as "Navy One" for use during and after WWII. Read Dr. Cashin's book for a brief lesson on Augusta's importance in history. And while not without challenges, Augusta is certainly on par with or better than most all cities this size in the US in terms of economic and cultural activity (and crime and educational attainment and etc.). Your continued insistence on its inconsequentiality seems to me just personal distaste for the area.

And this has been beaten to death. But one last time for the author of this (presumably) op-ed. Medical schools ranked equal to or higher than GHSU with co-named with towns / cities (in rank order): Stanford, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Rochester, Boston, Cincinnati, Miami, Stony Brook, Buffalo, and St. Louis.

And no, Augusta isn't Chicago or Boston (or even Rochester, Richmond, Louisville or Memphis). So, highly prestigious universities named for towns in the same basic size range (a little bigger to much smaller than) Augusta include Auburn, Syracuse, Akron, Dayton, Albany, Toledo, and Boise. Clemson and Stanford have both small towns and universities named for a person, so similar but different enough to keep separate.

I'm sure there are a lot more, but I'm tired of this exercise. The USS Augusta has been sunk (sorry Franklin). I get it. Georgia Rejects U, Augusta. I'm moving on and I'm sure we'll survive and thrive despite this debacle. But I just can't stand people blindly (or knowingly) propagating misinformation and degrading this place I call home.

AEinstein
5
Points
AEinstein 08/13/12 - 12:07 pm
1
0
Grammar??

Kessel, Kessel, Kessel: I know you had Marion Wash as an English teacher at ARC in high school, and I know he taught you that "irregardless" is NOT a word. I assume and hope that using "irregardless" in a statement was a misrepresentation of what you actually said -- that the reporter reported it incorrectly and that you actually said "irrespective" maybe, or "regardless". If you actually said "irregardless", then you added insult to injury after voting for this absurd name for the combined schools in Augusta.

Back to Top
loading...
Top headlines

Paine College debt continues to climb

As Paine College continues an aggressive fundraising campaign to turn around years of decline, the school’s most recent financial audit shows climbing debt and more revenue loss over the last ...
Search Augusta jobs