Ricardo Azziz knocked on the office door of Georgia Board of Regents Chairman Benjamin J. Tarbutton III.
“You wanted to see me?”
“Hi, come on in,” Tarbutton said, motioning him to sit down among floor-to-ceiling stacks of papers. “You’re looking well. I didn’t realize that you could remove tar and feathers that quickly.”
“I’ve got a great dry-cleaner,” Azziz said. “What’s up?”
TARBUTTON LEANED back in his chair. “We’ve been fleshing out the details on the merger of Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University, and since you’re going to be president of this merged institution, you’ve got to stay in the loop. Like you, we’ve been catching tremendous heat over the new school name we approved – ‘Georgia Regents University.’”
“Catchy,” Azziz grinned.
Tarbutton pointed. “You see where you’re sitting? It’s not a chair – it’s one of the piles of hate mail we’ve received that unanimously disapprove of the combined university’s new name.”
“Wow,” Azziz said, moving to an actual chair. “I had no idea.”
“This letter is typical of what we’ve received,” Tarbutton said, selecting a piece of paper from the top of a huge stack on his desk. “It just says, ‘Dear Ben: GRU? Really? Drop dead.’”
Azziz frowned. “That sounds rather personal.”
“It’s from my mother,” Tarbutton said, tossing the letter aside. “But you see what we’re up against. You and I and just about every regent in the University System of Georgia has every citizen in Augusta hopping mad. And a couple folks in Lincolnton aren’t too pleased, either.”
“So what are we going to do?” Azziz asked.
“Well,” Tarbutton said, “the other regents and I have been tossing a few ideas around, and the bottom line is this: We need a name change.”
AZZIZ BLANCHED. “But Georgia Regents University is a wonderful name!”
“No, no,” Tarbutton said. “We’re not changing the university’s name. We’re going to change your name.”
“The other regents and I feel that a name such as ‘Ricardo Azziz’ just doesn’t have the broad-based appeal we need in the name of a president who’s going to lead a new university that – how did you put it – will have its ‘sights set on the larger state, nation and the globe,’ ” Tarbutton said. “Besides, the name ‘Azziz’ really fell flat with our focus groups. Having three Zs in the name just put people right to sleep.”
“But, but – I’ve had this name my whole life!”
“And Augusta State had ‘Augusta’ in its name since 1925, blah blah blah,” Tarbutton shot back. “Has your name been ‘Ricardo Azziz’ since 1925? No it has not. Don’t get sentimental on me now, Ric – I mean, Dirk.”
“Start getting used to it, because that’s the new name we picked out for you for 2013 – Dirk Presidential!” Tarbutton smiled, handing Azziz a new set of business cards. “Catchy, huh? We think it projects power and authority. It even sounds presidential. And best of all? It’s cool! You’re the one who’s been talking about Augusta needing to ramp up its ‘cool’ factor, right?”
“But that’s a preposterous name!” Azziz spluttered. “Everyone in my family is going to hate it!”
“Well, if they really want to complain, they can write us letters,” Tarbutton said, waving his hand. “We’ll just put them in one of those stacks in the corner.”
“But you can’t do this!” Azziz shouted. “You can’t just make half-baked decisions on my behalf while ignoring my input! That’s insane! That would be like ... like ... ”
“Like renaming a university?” Tarbutton asked.
“AW, NOW, don’t take it so hard,” Tarbutton said, throwing his arm around Azziz’s shoulders. “Your new name will grow on you. Besides, the whole point of all this is to guide a vastly improved academic mission at GRU. It doesn’t matter what your name is.”
Azziz grimaced. “But if it doesn’t matter what my name is, why did you need to radically change it?”
“Shut up,” Tarbutton explained.