By any measure, it was a very bad week for Augusta’s “New U.”
Commentators on national television’s Golf Channel mercilessly ridiculed the proposed “Georgia Regents University” name that the state Board of Regents has chosen for the upcoming consolidation of Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University.
“They’ve gotta be stopped,” one commentator said of the Georgia Board of Regents,
noting they’ve named the New U after themselves as a father might a son. “These guys are out of control. The narcissism is ridiculous!”
“If I’m an overseas kid wanting to go to college in the U.S.,” said another, “I want to go to ‘Augusta State’ and be near Augusta National.”
Indeed, the power of the Augusta brand was demonstrated on Monday, when Augusta National announced it was admitting its first two female members. The name “Augusta” rolled off the tongues of media all over the world.
In contrast, Dr. Ricardo Azziz, who will head the new consolidated university, admitted in a public forum last week that the “Georgia Regents University” name would take as much as 20 years to be established as a recognizable brand.
It doesn’t take a business major to see which route is more logical: If you’ve got a worldwide brand such as Augusta’s, you don’t junk it in favor of a complete unknown.
Moreover, that name stomps on an existing trademark for Regent University in Virginia – and this week, that school announced plans to sue Georgia to prevent it from using the Georgia Regents name. Legal arguments aside, the confusion is inherent, and completely unnecessary.
The “New U” also is being hurt in ways financial. David Alalof is chairman of the “A Day for ASU” campaign at Augusta State, which raises funds for scholarships, faculty development and academic support. He says the naming controversy has led some in the community to withhold support for the $555,000 campaign. One television station produced a donor’s pledge card with a penny attached to it as a protest.
“All it does is hurt a great institution,” Alalof says.
He’s right, of course. But hopefully, it also sends a message to the state about how deeply insulted this community feels that its input on a new name wasn’t respected, nor its revulsion at the new name.
All in all, it’s been a bad week for the New U.
But there’s a face-saving way out of this mess – for everyone.
State officials could look at this imbroglio and get upset and dig in their heels. Let us suggest a different perspective, a more constructive path:
State officials could just as easily look at this growing clash over the New U’s name as a beautiful thing, an unmistakable sign of a deeply rooted civic pride in Augusta that, perhaps, folks in Atlanta far underestimated – and an attachment to the institutions of higher learning here that is more intimate and heartfelt than anyone ever guessed.
Is that a bad thing? Something to grow angry over? Of course not. The state should be delighted, if not thrilled, that Augustans are this invested in these schools. It truly is a thing of beauty.
We urge our governor and state Board of Regents to look at this situation in a totally new way – to see it as an expression of Augusta’s enviable – and extraordinary – civic pride, and its abiding love for its universities.
Use the lawsuit by the Virginia school as a very good excuse, but cite Augusta’s school and civic spirit as the real reason for changing the name to include Augusta.
Honor that pride. It won’t let you down, we promise you.