Sadly enough, we’re not talking about a far-off dictatorship; we’re describing, only in part, the blanket of condescension, coercion, reprisal and iron-fisted tyranny that has descended over what is now known as Georgia Regents University.
It’s time you knew the truth.
And it’s time Augusta united against it.
Augusta never has accepted the malodorous name “Georgia Regents University” that was foisted on us by imperious officials during the recent merger of Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University. In fact, the community revolted, with a broad, grassroots “Save the A” campaign to keep “Augusta” in the new name.
In the end, officials led by GHSU and now GRU President Ricardo Azziz ignored passionate community sentiment – as well as their own $45,000 survey results that put the name “Augusta” on top – and stuck us with GRU.
Save the A leaders reluctantly agreed to call off the dogs when Azziz agreed to use “Augusta” in marketing materials, to unofficially make it “Georgia Regents University Augusta.” But school officials reneged. Fact is, they’ve done the exact opposite.
Not only have GRU officials failed to fully live up to their bargain to use “Augusta” in marketing the combined university, but now they have even begun erasing “Augusta”: In GRU’s new glossy promotional brochure for prospective students, photographs of championship Augusta State athletic teams have outrageously been electronically altered to remove Augusta State logos and references from their shirts, jerseys and hats.
The brochures were quickly halted after word of them hit the news. But the damage is done. It is, in effect, an attempted purge of the Augusta State name and a disgraceful denial of its proud history. It’s fraud and deceit, pure and simple.
Basketball star Ben Madgen, ASU’s all-time scoring leader – now a pro in Australia – once had his number retired by the school. Now, scandalously, his school name has been retired too, in a photo of him and his jubilant teammates, who went through much together to hoist that trophy of theirs.
“Really heartbreaking,” is how Madgen reacted to having his school name ripped from his jersey.
Indeed, it’s an inexcusable insult to Madgen and every other athlete who’s ever worn “Augusta State” on their clothes, and every fan who ever cheered them on.
It’s also a stone cold slap in the face to a community that had already been insulted in the school’s naming process.
How much more of this is Augusta going to take?
Consider just the arrogance in GRU spokesman David Brond’s explanation that the erasures were done in order to “eliminate other brands” from the publication in question.
Really? That’s all Augusta State University is to these people? A “brand”?
Well, forgive longtime and native Augustans for believing our beloved Augusta State is much more than a label on a can. We have poured our hearts and souls and dollars and even our offspring into this institution and its predecessors, for decades and decades. And we sure as heck don’t appreciate having that legacy wiped out with the wave of a computer mouse.
Brond also claims removing the Augusta name from photos was just simpler than explaining the merger and name change. That’s so much claptrap. If you can’t explain the name change in a single dependent clause, you’ve got no business being in marketing.
Such a cavalier expunging of Augusta also reveals an acute indifference toward all the people who have made these institutions what they were.
To all this dismissiveness and disdain, add cowardice. GRU’s Brond has refused to say who authorized the photo alterations. But he’s all-too-happy to blame the mystery Photoshop Ghost for what he now calls an “error in judgment.”
We find it hard to believe that such an executive-level “error in judgment” didn’t emanate from high up, or that the “error” wasn’t approved at the highest levels – particularly given what a control freak Dr. Azziz has shown himself to be. It’s not the kind of assertive and pivotal decision a low-level employee feels empowered to make.
We even doubt that Vice Provost Roman Cibirka, whose Division of Enrollment Management produced the books, would’ve felt comfortable making such a command decision without support upstairs.
Whoever authorized it should be fired – up to, and including, the president.
To the cowardice, add
coercion: GRU’s administration has put muzzles on everyone at the combined institution, with orders not to comment publicly on this or, judging from what we’ve heard, many other goings-on at the university our tax dollars fund.
Why? What are they afraid of? Any dissension whatsoever?
We hope this story opens the floodgates at GRU, and that staff will have the courage to come forward in the face of threats from the administration to share vital information with the public. It’s our school, not theirs.
It is certain the contemptuous whitewashing of Augusta’s legacy is but a symptom of a larger problem at GRU. We can tell you from firsthand knowledge that a grossly unhealthy and stifling climate of abject fear has fallen over these two formerly proud and open institutions under Ricardo Azziz’s reign. Administrators and academics at the pinnacles of their careers and professions – good citizens who have done no wrong – are living in a fog of utter foreboding. They have a nagging sense that someone is out to get them, and that that someone is the school they used to love coming to work for. And wearing muzzles, they surely have no reason to believe their thoughts and opinions are valued up the chain.
It’s not just logos and names on jerseys and ballcaps that are being erased at Georgia Regents University.