While those protesting the “Georgia Regents University” name try to get more organized, even some who aren’t crazy about it are trying to find a way to live with the name for the consolidated Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities.
Phil Wahl is the chairman of the Augusta State University Foundation’s board of trustees and serves on the Consolidation Working Group that helped pare down the suggested names to three finalists.
“I personally liked the name ‘Augusta’ in some form,” Wahl said, and the University of Augusta was one of the three finalists. “But I do understand there are lots of reasons for the decision that might not include the name ‘Augusta.’ ”
He knows people are upset about the name, but he has not yet heard directly from anyone threatening to withhold donations to the foundation.
“I’m certainly concerned that people are upset about the name. I hope we don’t lose sight of the opportunity to create a significant university here in Augusta,” Wahl said.
Persuading leaders to reconsider the university name has become a more difficult task than some protesters first realized. A group that organized on Facebook using a page titled “Everyone Against ‘Georgia Regents University’ Sound Off” met Thursday night at Nacho Mama’s on Broad Street to formalize its plans to proceed.
Tiffany Looman, one of nine students and alumni at the meeting, said she’s willing to keep up the fight, at least until the Georgia Board of Regents responds to the protest.
“We’ll try, and see how far we get. I would feel worse about myself if I just sat there,” said Looman, a senior at ASU.
The small group discussed plans for an Aug. 20 protest on the ASU campus, making T-shirts and recruiting more people to align with their cause.
Chris Nabholz, a junior at ASU who has been central to Facebook protests but did not attend Thursday’s meeting, said the issue is more political than protesters originally thought.
Their efforts so far have done little to influence the Board of Regents, GHSU President Ricardo Azziz or Gov. Nathan Deal, he said.
“It’s going to take more community force to get this though,” Nabholz said. “It’s mind-boggling to see (Azziz) is not getting what we’re saying.”
Getting to retain the name “Medical College of Georgia” as the name for the school of medicine has helped temper reaction to the name, said Dr. Henry Cline, the president of the MCG Alumni Association.
“Like everything else, it is going to take some getting used to,” said Cline, a radiation oncologist in Atlanta. “I think most of the doctor alumni feel like as long as we can still retain the Medical College of Georgia identification, then everybody ought to be OK.”
It’s possible the new name could hurt fundraising, but the reaction among MCG alumni has been mixed, as could be expected, he said.
“No matter what you picked, you’re going to get someone who is not happy about that,” Cline said. “I must say this is a lot better than the first ones they threw out there.”