GRU-some choice

University's new name unites the community -- against it

The president’s office at Georgia Health Sciences University announced the school’s new name Tuesday by calling it a “milestone.”

It feels more like a millstone.

The name that GHSU will soon share with Augusta State University, as the two are consolidated into one, will be Georgia Regents University.

When that possibility became public over the weekend, opposition to it erupted like a volcano in both mass and social media in the Augusta area, and with good reason. The name has zero relevance to anything and even less appeal. It’s not a nod to any person, place or thing – other than, perhaps the state Board of Regents which approved it.

It’s hard to imagine “Georgia Regents University” engendering the kind of emotional connection one normally associates with an alma mater. Certainly the local community will have a tougher time welling up affection for an institution that used to have Augusta in its name but no longer does.

Even so, Georgia Regents? Really? That’s the best they can do after half a year of posturing and polling?

If it’s mandatory to get “Georgia” in the name, what about Georgia Arts and Sciences University, one of the three finalists the regents chose from? Or Georgia International University? Or, of course, the clear-cut most popular and most obvious name: The University of Augusta.

But Georgia Regents? They chose the absolute worst option of the three.

Young folks especially were laughing, or grumbling, that “GRU” also happens to be the name of the supervillain in the animated movie Despicable Me. Don’t think opposition fans won’t have a heyday with that!

Most hurtful is the fact that the state Board of Regents knew full well the amount of public opposition to this name in the Augusta area, and did it anyway.

The regents might have thought we were being provincial. But it’s the regents who went out of their way to take Augusta out and put Georgia in. Who’s being provincial, exactly? And, of course, the state has completely missed the significance of the “Augusta” brand, which is more widespread and international than even the state’s name, thanks to the Masters Tournament.

They also did it in the face of an almost certain lawsuit from Regent University in Virginia, which had politely asked the Georgia board not to use the Regents name due to likely confusion with the Virginia school’s trademarked name.

Moreover, here’s what GHSU – soon to be GRU – president Dr. Ricardo Azziz wrote in heralding the name change:

“The word ‘regent’ is defined as having great power, and as an institution focused on the future, this name positions us as a leading university for quality teaching and education, with an array of academic programs to include both liberal arts and sciences, and one of only four comprehensive research institutions in the state.”

Yeah, that will really grab an 18-year-old recruit by the collar! When you feel the need to explain the name, perhaps that’s the first clue that the name has been chosen poorly.

In this case, it’s the second clue. The first should have been the concussion from heads exploding in the Augusta area.

This isn’t the end of it. The first stirrings of actual hit-the-sidewalks public protest were seen in social media within minutes of the announcement. We applaud that spirit, and we urge students and supporters of the two schools to join in whatever protest emerges.

Likewise, we urge our esteemed friends on the Board of Regents to be as open-minded as they hope their young college students are.

Even to the possibility that they erred, big-time.

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