Editorial: What's in a name? Everything!

Seldom does The Augusta Chronicle run a front-page editorial. It does so only when the subject is of utmost importance to our nation, state or community.

This editorial speaks to a matter of critical importance to our state and to Augusta.

The Board of Regents of the state of Georgia has made a colossal error this week in choosing a new name for the combined Augusta State University and Medical College of Georgia (recently named by the regents, at President Ricardo Azziz’s recommendation, “Georgia Health Sciences University”).

The new name does not include “Augusta.” Instead, the state Board of Regents has decided to name it “Georgia Regents University.”

What a tragic mistake.

The suggested new name means nothing. It gives no recognition, or appreciation, to our city for its inseparable bond with the two institutions involved, which reaches back to the founding of the medical college in the 1820s. It’s a relationship that includes incredible support in every possible way over all those years.

What a slap in the face. And to a community that quickly embraced the state’s desire to consolidate the two schools.

There are numerous other reasons the “Georgia Regents University” name is a horrid choice, including:

– It doesn’t honor or invoke any special person, place or thing. It is, in short, completely devoid of meaning.

– Because of that, the name cannot possibly inspire the least amount of affection from students and alumni, or from the community at large.

That attachment means more than feelings; in the case of a university, it can affect the bottom line, if alumni feel alienated or simply unexcited about giving to the alma mater.

Indeed, it will alienate generations of sons and daughters who would have potentially applied to a university that was attended by their parents, grandparents and siblings. With this new naming convention, the regents completely erase the association that has motivated those very important family conversations on “where do you intend to go to school?” Alumni will have lost that connection to a university that has become of part of their DNA, and will likely not inspire their children to consider that institution as an option. More importantly, the prospect of gaining alumni contributions in the future will likely be diminished.

– Perhaps worst of all, the “Georgia Regents” name – which is wholly disembodied from its host community – completely severs a nearly 200-year bond between our community and its beloved institutions of higher learning.

Gen. Sherman would have been hard-put to do such damage.

Why go so far out of the way to avoid using the “Augusta” brand? Why would the regents not want to use the most well-known and positive name in all of Georgia: Augusta? This name is far better known than any other city or place in the state because of the wonderful and enormously successful Masters golf tournament. That event has brought positive international recognition to not only our city but also our state.

Why not incorporate it into our new school name? It brings instant good will and recognition from the beginning.

If the board’s idea was to broaden the combined school’s potential reputation, that’s a contrived and misguided concern. For one thing, putting “Georgia” in the name only serves to muddle things: There are some 16 such institutions out there already!

And, as astutely noted by The Chronicle’s Chris Gay, an alumnus of ASU, having a city’s name in the title of a university doesn’t limit its reach: think Auburn, Clemson, Syracuse, Houston, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Boise State, Miami.

The Board of Regents’ decision to cut rhetorical ties with Augusta, and to bizarrely name the school for themselves, is such an insult to Georgia’s second-largest city that Billy Morris, publisher of The Augusta Chronicle and chairman of Morris Communications Inc., has on this page announced his resignation from the Georgia Health Sciences University Board of Visitors – citing the insensitivity and ignorance the name change shows to our community, its history and its long, storied and treasured relationship with these two universities.

It’s clear Dr. Azziz, a relative newcomer, has not come to grips with where he is and the important history he has inherited. He must do so, and soon. A good start would be for him to lead a movement to rename the school to include the name “Augusta” in its title.

We urge Augustans – all Augustans – to not support or accept the Georgia Regents University name. Augusta must be included in whatever name is ultimately chosen.

Topic Page: University Merger

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