Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

University merger met with cheers, suspicion

  • Follow City Ink

The movers and shakers are predicting Augusta will become a boomtown once Augusta State University and Geor­gia Health Sciences Uni­versity are joined into one institution of higher learning with GHSU President Ricardo Azziz officiating.

Some ordinary folks don’t know what to think because we didn’t know a thing about it until Uni­versity System of Georgia Chan­cellor Hank Huckaby and members of the Board of Regents came to town for a private meeting with local officials last week and ended up springing it on us like a shotgun wedding.

And even if we don’t really like the idea and have a lot of questions such as, “Who’s going to wear the pants in the family?” we don’t want to say so publicly.

Therefore, City Ink turned to state Rep. Barbara Sims, one of the few people in Augusta who’s been in the loop on this affair from the beginning.

“Augusta will be the Univer­sity of Georgia with a medical school,” she said. “This grows every area of our education system. It will give students at Augusta State more classes that could prepare them if they want to go on to a medical field, but it will still be a liberal arts school. And GHSU will grow and produce more doctors. We would have a bigger footprint, and we will have a firmer hold on our medical school.”

The union is expected to produce more medical research.

BUT WILL THEY LIVE HAP­PILY EVER AFTER? Augus­ta Commission member Grady Smith, a member of the ASU board of trustees, thinks the school is doing just fine and isn’t sure the union is a marriage made in heaven.

“It’s like an arm and a leg,” he said. “They each do different things. You’ve got two over there doing one thing and two down there doing something else. They’re so different."

(Like maybe a man and a woman?)

“But I don’t want to be negative about it. If it’s good for Richmond County, I’m for it, but it’s hard to make a concrete decision because we don’t know what’s going on. When did all this come about, and who started it, and what was the motivation? I know the reason you’ll hear: Money. That it will save money – but that might not really be it.”

Smith is leery of the merger because he suspects it was initiated by former Gov. Sonny Perdue, whose disdain for Augusta and allegiance to Athens and the University of Georgia and its fledgling medical school are well known. He’s also concerned that Augusta doesn’t have a member on the Board of Regents to look after its interest.

“I want to watch what I say,” Smith said. “I just want to know more about it and want to watch how they’re going to do it. We see what happened to a merger in Augusta 15 years ago that didn’t turn out so good. People make these decisions that aren’t always the best, and the taxpayers are stuck with them.”

SPEAKING OF MONEY: Au­gus­ta will get more of it when construction booms on the ASU campus and GHSU grows to incorporate the Golf and Gardens property. Nobody wants to say so because they don’t want to put any of the plans in jeopardy by ticking off the big guys in the state who like to announce major projects at news conferences to make sure they get the credit for spending your money.

BARBARA RULES: Sims was appointed to two more House committees last week – Rules, and Science and Technology – which makes her one of the most influential House members, as she’s also on the all-important Appropriations Committee. All bills must pass the Rules Committee before going to the House floor for a vote, which gives its members power. She’s also on the Transportation Committee, the Economic Development Committee, and the Health and Human Services Committee.

I OBJECT. I OBJECT. I OBJECT. Before voting no on Mayor Deke Copenhaver’s proposal to renew commissioners’ vows not to slam each other in public by reapproving the Code of Con­duct last week, Commis­sion­er Bill Lockett made a little speech:

“Many years ago, a young man by the name of Albert Einstein said if you do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result, that equates to insanity. We tried this in 2006, in 2009, and now we contemplate doing it again in 2012, and nothing has changed.”

That was pretty funny seeing as how Lockett repeatedly calls for unity on the board but disagrees with everything. He also puts items on agendas over and over again, such as to discuss the policies and procedures manual and authorize a criminal audit of city government. And when Monday’s administrative committee agenda came out, there were two repeats from December agendas, one being to ask the state attorney general for an opinion on the definition of “ordinary business” as specified in Augusta’s charter.

In December, Lockett agreed to withdraw that item until Superior Court Judge David Roper issued a written order in the lawsuit filed against the city by the Baptist Ministers Conference of Augusta. Roper ruled in the city’s favor Nov. 17 but didn’t specifically address the number of votes it takes to pass a measure of “extraordinary business” because the question wasn’t asked in the ministers’ suit.

So Lockett wants the attorney general to give examples of ordinary business that can be passed with six votes and extraordinary business that takes eight.

OK, but if this item fails this time around and then reappears, we’re going to know something.

JUST SAY NO: Augusta Com­mis­sioner Jerry Brig­ham and Richmond County school board trustee Jack Padgett have asked state Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, not to sign off on the reapportionment map that was unanimously approved by the 12-member ad hoc committee in November but not approved by a majority of commissioners later.

Busy movers and shakers have joined Brigham and Padgett in asking members of the legislative delegation not to sign off on the map.

Both Augusta senators must OK the plan for it to pass without going to the full House for a vote, where Sims could wield her power to defeat it.

In an e-mail to Stone, Brig­ham, a member of the ad hoc committee who later voted against the plan, stated his objections, chief of which is that “the racial makeup shuffling of the districts appear to be done for political purpose and not for equal representation.

“It was the policy at the beginning of consolidation to allow the minority population of Augusta to have equal representation with the majority population, when the county was 55 percent white and 45 percent black. This policy also seems to have been abandon(ed) too now that the county is 54 percent black and 46 percent white. Yes, I voted for plan 3R because I believed that it was better than plan 3 which was not as good as plan 2. I would ask that you support plan 2 or draw your own plan.”

After outlining the process and steps that led to the approval of a plan that increased the black population of District 6 to 60.6 percent from 52.9 percent, Pad­gett asked Stone not to agree with the “bad and disruptive plan.”

“Just say no and send it on to the full house.”

Comments (30) 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.
Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 01/07/12 - 09:40 pm
0
0
Just a few questions.... -

Just a few questions....

- How big will the pay increases be at MCG when administrators begin overseeing two schools?

- If it cost $3 million to change MCG's name, how much will it cost to change MCG and ASU's names?

- If the merger (AKA, take over) has been in the works for months, why was it just announced Friday and why is there a rush to vote on it on Tuesday?

- Are we surprised Augusta is once again getting bullied by Athens / Atlanta when we haven't had a representative on the Board of Regents since before most ASU students were even born?

KSL
126815
Points
KSL 01/07/12 - 10:00 pm
0
0
And exactly why was 3 mil

And exactly why was 3 mil wasted if the ultimate and obvious reachable goal of changing again was reachable with the union? And yes, I have a say because the majority of money made by this family has been made in ga, which receieved theme income tax. And we had no vote as to how it was spent.

KSL
126815
Points
KSL 01/07/12 - 10:01 pm
0
0
The

The

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 01/07/12 - 10:08 pm
0
0
KSL, it would be interesting

KSL, it would be interesting to see the records of where (or, more importantly, to whom) that $3 million went.

KSL
126815
Points
KSL 01/07/12 - 11:03 pm
0
0
Wouldn't it!

Wouldn't it!

KSL
126815
Points
KSL 01/07/12 - 11:09 pm
0
0
In 2003, our only experiene

In 2003, our only experiene we had ever had with mcg, was excellent. We could not ask for better.

allhans
23546
Points
allhans 01/08/12 - 01:14 am
0
0
There have been talk for some

There have been talk for some time about ways for hospitals to be able to continue with Obamcare on the horizon. Medical schools, the connection thereof, will mean more personnel for the hospitals to open clinics and such like on an affordable scale...(Or something like that)

Riverman1
82430
Points
Riverman1 01/08/12 - 05:57 am
0
0
The merger is a fantastic

The merger is a fantastic bonus for ASU. It will keep its name. GHSU could also keep it's name with ASU simply being added above (or below) the name. The biggest plus is that we now have a university with a medical school and that is going to enhance the academic reputation of the school tremendously. The quality and number of applicants will increase greatly.

Riverman1
82430
Points
Riverman1 01/08/12 - 05:59 am
0
0
Interesting that the GGHOF is

Interesting that the GGHOF is going to GHSU as was rumored a long time ago. Does this squash Mayor Copenhaver-Boardman's baseball stadium?

Riverman1
82430
Points
Riverman1 01/08/12 - 07:58 am
0
0
One more point before I tune

One more point before I tune out. Who knows how relationships with medical schools and universities come about? They are all different unions. Why worry about all the negatives? It's a positive thing is what's important. A university and medical school together is a powerful entity. Is not are.

DowntownJaguar
113
Points
DowntownJaguar 01/08/12 - 11:45 am
0
0
Riverman1, are you certain

Riverman1, are you certain ASU will keep its name? Also, do you think the students on the GHSU side will have to pay athletic fees too? I hope so. That could increase the athletic budget over $1 million annually at least...

prov227
3138
Points
prov227 01/08/12 - 12:02 pm
0
0
New name: University of

New name: University of Georgia at Augusta. A guess.

Riverman1
82430
Points
Riverman1 01/08/12 - 12:07 pm
0
0
DowntownJag, it's always done

DowntownJag, it's always done that way. But Georgia Health Sciences could be kept under the ASU name for the medical part. Prov227, did you read my explanation to you about the medical school in Athens on the other thread?

DowntownJaguar
113
Points
DowntownJaguar 01/08/12 - 12:18 pm
0
0
Thanks for the info

Thanks for the info DowntownJag. I hope this is in fact a good thing for the CSRA--especially Augusta.

...point to ponder
743
Points
...point to ponder 01/08/12 - 12:44 pm
0
0
If the Board of Regents was

If the Board of Regents was really concerned about saving taxpayer dollars (*this plan to merge ASU and GHSU(*MCG)was for the purpose of saving funds)...THEN the Regents first step still should be to undo the changes that made by having an Athens campus of MCG (*GHSU)...this will save millions each year!
BUT..this proposed merger of ASU and GHSU(*MCG) will not save "million's of dollars" each year. But for savings in 'administrative' costs...just how much can they save...maybe a few hundred thousand. What other reasons are there for this merger? The savings just don't make the effort to merge worthwhile.

The big train wreck that is coming is that this proposed merger brings closer to fruition the "combining of MCG(*GHSU) with the University of Georgia....since they would have already taken care of the smaller ASU/MCG merger. It becomes just an administrative item.

Given their past actions there is something missing in all this...it's "TRUST". And this stems from a total lack of communication to the community.

gcap
290
Points
gcap 01/08/12 - 02:25 pm
0
0
Seems to be a lot of posts

Seems to be a lot of posts very suspicious of state leaders trying to take away from Augusta. And when we as area citizens raise concerns, no one seems to remember our legacy -- Charles Walker, Robin Williams, and a long history of corruption and incompetence. It's not just our tax dollars. Folks from other parts of the state pay also. Where would you invest? Athens? or Augusta? We need to clean up everything in local politics. Maybe then we'd get some respect.

DowntownJaguar
113
Points
DowntownJaguar 01/08/12 - 03:44 pm
0
0
gcap, so you are saying

gcap, so you are saying Augusta is the only place where politics are corrupt?

countyman
19731
Points
countyman 01/08/12 - 04:52 pm
0
0
The majority of private

The majority of private developers would easily invest in Augusta over Athens... Jim Jacoby wants to invest into downtown Augusta, and Savannah's downtown is futher ahead.. The size of metro Augusta, and the ongoing construction in the CBD and inner city gives the city a big advantage...

The University of Augusta is a good choice.. I expect the CBD, Laney Walker, and Medical District to grow alot in the future.. In reality ASU can still develop the Wrightsboro/Damascus rd corridor.. The Medical District and ASU's Summerville campus are five minutes apart.. The intersection of Wrightsboro/Damascus is no more than 10-15 minutes to the Medical District..

This is almost similar to combining Emory with Georgia State.. The enrollment will increase signficantly over the next few years.. I would start running ads in Atlanta, Columbia, Greenville, and Savannah immediately.. 75% of the ads should be focused on the metro Atlanta area..

The 17 acre GGHOF property is enough room for Jim Jacoby, Cal Ripken, and Dr. Azziz...

Riverman1
82430
Points
Riverman1 01/08/12 - 04:53 pm
0
0
Transportation between the

Transportation between the main ASU and GHSU campuses will be improved no doubt. Possibly construction would take place between the two main campuses. As far as the GGHOF, if ASU gets the property as apparently is the case, they are not going to give any portion to the city for a stadium. That will be for school construction.

Countyman, I'm curious why you think ASU would drop "state" from their name? That would be reverting to a version of their old name.

Riverman1
82430
Points
Riverman1 01/08/12 - 04:57 pm
0
0
"This is almost similar to

"This is almost similar to combining Emory with Georgia State."

Huh? Emory is one of the wealthiest private schools in the nation. Georgia State is a public college.

countyman
19731
Points
countyman 01/08/12 - 05:04 pm
0
0
Emory= Healthcare

Emory= Healthcare prestige(i.e. GHSU)

Georgia State= public university(i.e. ASU)

Riverman1
82430
Points
Riverman1 01/08/12 - 05:07 pm
0
0
Oh, okay, I get what you are

Oh, okay, I get what you are saying. My point is Emory is private and not likely to merge with a state school.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 01/08/12 - 05:50 pm
0
0
Woohoo! The merger will

Woohoo! The merger will attract more students.
Oops. There is already no room at either MCG or ASU for students. Both campuses are already maxed out.

Woohoo! The merger will mean an easy transition from ASU to MCG.
Oops. There is already an easy transition. Both are members of the University of Georgia. Besides, not everyone who goes to ASU wants to be a doctor.

Woohoo! The merger will mean more investment in Augusta.
Oops. That makes no sense. If they wouldn't invest before. They won't invest under a new name.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 01/08/12 - 05:51 pm
0
0
Which degree programs and

Which degree programs and academic departments will be the first cut at ASU to accommodate MCG's expansion?

Any predictions?

createyourfuture
68
Points
createyourfuture 01/08/12 - 07:48 pm
0
0
Well, since all the good

Well, since all the good names have been taken, I have the name:

Georgia A & M = ASU & MCG

Either way, I want a football team out of this: the Green Wave. All the students can turn out in green scrubs to sit in the student section...

socks99
250
Points
socks99 01/08/12 - 08:34 pm
0
0
Smith might be on the right

Smith might be on the right track when he posits that former governor Perdue used his influence and Regents appointments to bolster his alma mater, U.GA. On the other hand, this 'boosting' culminated in, grossly, an MCG 'satellite campus' in Athens. Granted, U.GA., as the 'Flagship' institution has also seen a massive increase in building projects; notably, these are not paid for but funded with 'revenue bonds' that are dependent, apparently, on a growing enrollment and tuition payments. (And this is why 'consolidation' is beginning to close schools and force students into the maw at U.GA.: It's the only way the Regent's can possibly 'bail-out' the massive bets made by leaders at some of the larger Universities;)

In sum, Smith is right to suspect a good dose of politics, here, in addition to the much hot air about 'improving' the higher education system in GA, per se. Ironically, the Regents and many University insiders are quick to complain to accrediting institutions whenever elected folks threaten to 'interfere' in their affairs. A thoughtful person might wonder about how the Regents' and governors' politics impact GA's higher education system? Will the accrediting bodies view one with disdain, and turn a blind eye to the other?

Augustans might consider the implications of some sort of 'reaction' from state pols in areas where schools are being shuttered. Will they sit idly by while certain institutions are 'bailed-out' by closing other institutions? Are the Regents generally interested in improving the system, or just winging-it in a high stakes game of 'bail-outs' designed to cover-up their spendthrift management?

On the other hand, for those who favor politicized, spendthrift management of the state's higher educations system, I'd say you haven't seen anything yet!

(The many promises of 'growth,' 'medical tourism,' and the 'cooling' of Augusta seem like the promises made by a typical carpet-bagger out to steal the farm; when MCG's name was changed -- to knock-down alumni support -- that was another hint. They still say there is no such thing as a free lunch.)

gcap
290
Points
gcap 01/08/12 - 08:43 pm
0
0
Why does we always feel that

Why does we always feel that it is Augusta vs the rest of GA? And why is it that any post raising questions about the validity of others'perception of our city as being corrupt and incompetent doesn't inspire comment but causes readers to be defensive. Until we all, including those of us in Columbia County, take serious exception to how local affairs are run, the rest of the state is going to try to figure out how to get their dollars out of Augusta.

prov227
3138
Points
prov227 01/08/12 - 09:39 pm
0
0
Riverman1: I did read it and

Riverman1: I did read it and responded. Thanks.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 01/09/12 - 11:14 am
0
0
The merger is a positive.

The merger is a positive. Spin it however you want, but the end result is beneficial for the City and citizens of it and beyond. Get a transit system where riders use school ID to get back and forth from the Hill to Downtown. Enrollment will increase, which results in more kids downtown patronizing the businesses. Businesses that observe more activity tend to be more profitable. It's economic principle in effect. I like it. I support it. I want some more of it. HAH!

socks99
250
Points
socks99 01/09/12 - 08:12 pm
0
0
The snake is eating its own

The snake is eating its own tail!

Back to Top

Top headlines

Lincolnton 17-year-old drowns in cove

Many in Lincoln County were in mourning Monday after the weekend drowning of a teenager from a well-known family in Lincolnton, Lincoln County Coroner Paul Reviere said.
Search Augusta jobs