Facts, evidence don't support rationale for school's new name

Georgia Health Sciences University President Ricardo Azziz tried to go to great lengths in a blog entry Aug. 13 to sing the praises of the new university that will be formed when GHSU merges with Augusta State University.


Azziz rattled off how many students and faculty the new school would have, how much land it would occupy, what the economic impact would be and which impressive projects are on the horizon.

I don’t doubt that this new university will be a tremendous learning and research institution.

But the name is terrible.

None of Azziz’s facts and figures – not a scrap – supported the assertion that “Georgia Regents University” is the best name for the school. Nothing refuted the arrogant audacity with which the Board of Regents plucked the name “Georgia Regents University” from virtually out of nowhere and brandished it before a community of shocked Augustans who (a) never thought of it, (b) didn’t pick it and (c) don’t want it.

What Augustans want, overwhelmingly, is a university name that rightly mentions the city of Augusta.

Marketing surveys provided to The Chronicle recently showed that, across the board, the name “University of Augusta” scored highest among all survey groups as the best name for the new university. Respondents said University of Augusta, above all others, best suggested qualities of excellence, integrity, innovation and national resonance.

The survey results are blindingly obvious. Perhaps the only way to make it more obvious is if a guy in a gorilla suit delivered a singing telegram to Board of Regents Chairman Benjamin Tarbutton III by jumping on his desk, tossing the survey results in his face and belting out You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

But to hear Azziz spin it, any university name mentioning Augusta is a non-starter. That
assertion is unencumbered by facts or evidence.

Take this specious comment from Azziz’s blog: “(T)his name carried the risk that the new university would be viewed only as a local and parochial concern and not the statewide entity that it needs to, and will, become.” According to whom, exactly? Besides Azziz or a regent, I mean.

Let’s look at another academic medical center named for a city – the Cleveland Clinic. It has expanded to more than 80 facilities across Ohio, and grew its national and international campuses into Florida, Nevada, Canada and Abu Dhabi.

Gosh. What a shame that the clinic’s leaders stuck with such a “local and parochial” name.

Also from Dr. Azziz: “And imagine trying to manage and create the campuses and partnerships needed across the state, in localities where other communities also feel strongly about their city’s name.”

Is Dr. Azziz implying that other cities’ residents can feel strongly about their cities’ names, but Augustans shouldn’t? We can’t expand University of Augusta campuses into other cities lest we bruise the feelings of folks in those towns? Using that logic, the opening of Augusta Tech campuses in Waynesboro, Thomson and Grovetown must have been a horrible affront to those cities’ civic pride.

Apparently the University of Houston made the same mistake by creating campuses in the Texas cities of Clear Lake and Victoria. Ditto for Miami University expanding into the Ohio cities of Hamilton, Middletown and West Chester. And whoops, the University of Pittsburgh established Pennsylvania branches in Bradford, Greensburg, Titusville and Johnstown. Then there’s Auburn University’s branch campus in Montgomery,

It seems each of those city-named universities created and managed campuses and partnerships quite well.

University of Augusta was the only name to make it positively through every round of suggestions. That’s more than 1,200 suggestions; two preferred lists from a working group; and internal and national market testing. The final three were the University of Augusta; Georgia Arts & Sciences University; and the rightly reviled Georgia Regents University.

But no less an official than GHSU Provost Gretchen Caughman, who will be provost of the combined university, told The Chronicle in its July 19 edition (my emphasis added): “We can build this next university under any of these names.”

And again from Azziz: “(W)hile important on one level, the selection of a name for this university is one of the lesser decisions that must be made in what is, and will continue to be, a complex and difficult process.”

Well. If it’s such a “lesser” decision, what’s the problem in changing the name?

The Board of Regents would have you believe that the naming is a done deal, and that you should just stop complaining. But who says you can’t fight
a regents-approved university name? It’s been done before, right here in Georgia.

In 1996, when the Board of Regents decided to bestow university status on all four-year colleges, Georgia College in Milledgeville became Atkinson State University, named for the school’s founder.

You know how long that lasted? Exactly one day. Alumni were livid at the prospect of the school’s historic name being rubbed out. So an internal committee quickly formed to suggest a compromise name that the regents accepted – Georgia College & State University.

What Augustans are clamoring for is something that no team of researchers can scientifically quantify. They want inclusion. They want respect. And they want a name for their beloved university that has been definitively approved both by marketing studies and an overwhelming community majority.

The choice is clear: Stand up for the name that best fits the city and the school, or roll over and
have your belly rubbed by an imperious Board of Regents.

Topic Page: University Merger


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