Nick Evans, the chairman of the Save the A campaign, said members of the group met last week with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Board of Regents “leadership,” including Chancellor Hank Huckaby and board Chairman Ben Tarbutton III.
Save the A, a group led by local business owners and community leaders, was formed in September to campaign for replacing Georgia Regents University with University of Augusta as the name for the consolidated Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities. The group has sponsored letter-writing and social media campaigns focused on influencing the Board of Regents into reconsidering its name selection.
Evans characterized last week’s meeting as a “positive exchange” and said he felt progress was made.
“It was a good meeting,” said Evans, who declined to provide any specifics of what was discussed.
Deal’s spokesman, Brian Robinson, said the governor facilitated the meeting in an effort to find a resolution to the contentious issue.
Tarbutton agreed the meeting was a step in the right direction, but was also noncommital about what might come of the discussions or what was said.
“It was great to listen and for them to share their thoughts,” he said. “It was a great dialogue.”
Tarbutton would not speculate on whether a compromise could be worked out between the Regents and the Save the A group or if anything at all would come from the dialogue.
“I can’t predict the future,” Tarbutton said. “I can’t say what might change with the next phone call.”
Neither expected an immediate resolution to the issue.
David Alalof, the chairman of ASU Foundation, said the fact the two sides were talking opens the door to a solution. That is an improvement over the previous situation, in which the Regents’ position was that the naming decision was dead issue.
He said the name, “Georgia Regents University at Augusta” has been “bandied about” as a possible compromise, but no firm offers have been made and no deal was on the table.
“I’ve heard we will have another meeting,” he said. “I just hope that sensible people can get together to come up with a sensible name.”
Deal will be in Augusta today to speak at the annual meeting of the CSRA Regional Commission. That might seem like an opportune time to announce a resolution to the name change controversy, but neither Tarbutton nor Evans expected that to happen. Evans said they had no plans to meet with Deal while he was in town.
Robinson said the governor will not address the name change issue in his remarks, but will take questions from the press after the event.
The other man at the center of the controversy, GHSU President Ricardo Azziz, will not attend tonight’s meeting, event organizers said.