Not a done deal

Community must keep fighting university's abhorrent renaming

In the immortal words of John Belushi, nothing is over until we decide it is.

If everyone who abhors the clunker “Georgia Regents University” name that was foisted on this community last week would stand up and speak up, there’s no way the senseless, offensive decision could stand.

That goes double for this
area’s leaders, public and private. Have the gumption to stand your ground on this. Mayor Deke Copenhaver, our state lawmakers, business leaders, civic leaders and anyone else with a title with any amount of pull – do your jobs and do your community a favor: grow a spine.

Dedicate yourselves to overturning this decision.

Don’t just do it for community pride; do it for basic personal pride. You have been slapped in the face – not just by the Georgia Board of Regents’ ugly, meaningless name for the merger of Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University, but also in the way the decision was reached.

It now seems clear that not only was this community and its desires completely ignored in this naming process, but that – outrageously – state leaders went miles out of their way to do it. Perhaps literally.

Consider:

• Ricardo Azziz, president of Georgia Health Sciences University, commissioned a $45,500 national and state survey of the public and of academic types to test the popularity of the final few names under consideration. Guess what: “Georgia Regents University” polled about as well as a dead skunk on the highway. In contrast, “The University of Augusta” was the No. 1 choice in every category of respondent – of ordinary citizens nationally and statewide, and of faculty members around the country.

• That little tidbit of information – that “University of Augusta” was the preferred name nationally – had to be dragged out of GHSU with an Open Records request. Why? Why wasn’t it trumpeted publicly by Dr. Azziz and his staff?

The answer seems clear enough: What this community wanted and what the national and state polls clearly preferred was not what Dr. Azziz wanted.

• Fact is, evidence continues to mount that not only was this name Dr. Azziz’s desire, but that his office may have lobbied hard for it. Our information, as well as information gleaned by other media here, indicates an unmistakable flurry of contact between Azziz’s office and Georgia Board of Regents members in the days and weeks preceding their decision to name the new university Georgia Regents.

If true, then the months-long process by which Augustans were asked for their ideas and input, and committees pored over 1,200 names, was, in the end, manipulated – if it wasn’t a sham from the beginning.

How many insults will Augusta-area leaders drink down before speaking up?

Well, your constituents have had their fill. They’ve been signing Facebook petitions, calling or writing state leaders and agreeing with other online protests and news stories and editorials on the matter.

There are two forums this Thursday where university officials are going to try to explain themselves: at noon at ASU’s Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre and 3 p.m. at GHSU’s Lee Auditorium. Be there.

There is a protest/pep rally next Monday at noon at the Augusta State University outdoor amphitheater in the center of campus. Be there.

We also suggest you call and/or write Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and your state legislators.

Everything we are hearing indicates that wide swaths of employees at both schools also vehemently oppose the name Georgia Regents University, but that there is a heavy shroud of fear and silence on both campuses, with employees deathly afraid of speaking out for fear of reprisals. How sad.

We call on Dr. Azziz to make it clear that no one will be retaliated against for speaking his or her mind.

And we call on the entire community to keep doing it.

Only louder.

Topic Page: University Merger

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