That leadership style – a black cloud of fear and intimidation – has descended on both institutions set to be consolidated: Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University.
It’s bad enough that the mega-clunker “Georgia Regents University” was chosen as the name for the consolidated university by President Ricardo Azziz and the Georgia Board of Regents.
It’s worse yet that neither Azziz nor the regents will budge an inch on the name – despite the fact that Augusta is in full rebellion against it.
Worse still is the fact that most close observers don’t believe Dr. Azziz a whit when he says he didn’t have anything to do with pushing the Georgia Regents name. Evidence to the contrary is flowing in.
But perhaps the saddest part of this complete disregard for the community is the arrogant, heavy-handed way it’s been carried out. There is such a climate of fear and intimidation in both universities right now that employees are deathly afraid of expressing their opinions for fear of being fired.
One senior official at one of the schools was so fearful of Dr. Azziz’s regime that this person took care to contact The Chronicle on a personal cell phone – rather than risk detection on a school phone.
That doesn’t even sound like America, much less Augusta.
All the more reason to admire those who have stood up against this process publicly, including many brave souls at a rally Monday at ASU.
A camera crew from Azziz’s administration was said to have recorded it all.
“People are definitely afraid of him,” one school employee told us Monday. “We shouldn’t be in fear of voicing our opinion.”
“You are correct; employees will be fired if they speak out,” an anonymous reader said in our Rants & Raves column Tuesday.
Even Augusta State student senators were warned in a pre-rally e-mail that the name change is a done deal and not to second-guess it publicly.
All these attempts at suppression and submission for a name that Dr. Azziz claims to not feel passionate about?
That prompts the question: Who does feel passionately about it? And do they feel more strongly than the Augusta community, which has railed against Georgia Regents University from the start? And why do their opinions count for so much more than this community’s?
It’s all very odd.
But, even as the Augusta community fights to get the name changed, this brouhaha has revealed a larger problem: a regime that seems incapable of admitting a mistake; is unwilling to listen to anyone; is disingenuous at best in admitting its role in things; and is willing to rule through fear and intimidation.
Even if the consolidated university’s name and leader remain, the administration has lost the trust, confidence, respect and support of a hefty swath of this community – most importantly the faculty, students, alumni and donors.
A leader simply must have the good will and support of the people and community he serves.
Perhaps Dr. Azziz feels he does not need Augusta; conventional wisdom says the relative newcomer was always going to be a short-timer here anyway. But the ill will and rock-bottom morale he will have left will be a devastating legacy indeed. The lives and careers of some very dear people who care deeply about these schools, as well as the fierce loyalty of their alumni, are being stepped on with the most callous disregard you can imagine.
Why not make the new U’s mascot the “Cavaliers”? That’s the manner in which people here are being treated, after all.