The importance of reading

It appears state officials are interpreting Augusta all wrong

  • Follow Editorials

We hope we’re not misreading state officials, but they sure seem to be misreading Augusta.

Reading between the lines of Georgia Board of Regents Chancellor Hank Huckaby’s remarks to the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce Breakfast on Wednesday, it sure sounds as if folks in Atlanta have very badly misread what’s going on in Augusta.

Very, very badly.

The chancellor talked about his role, and Georgia Regents University President Ricardo Azziz’s role, as a change agent. He talked about the institution having a statewide mission. He talked about turning over sacred cows. Did we mention he talked about the benefits of change?

Again, we hope we’re wrong – we just don’t know, because, sadly enough, organizers of the breakfast this week seemed overly concerned about the audience asking the chancellor any indelicate questions, so there wasn’t much of a dialogue.

Yet, it sounds as if the chancellor thinks 1) Augusta is resistant to necessary change; 2) that we think of GRU as ours, not the state’s; and 3) that we’re trying to protect “sacred cows” here – perhaps meaning the name “Augusta.”

Even if the chancellor isn’t under those misimpressions, there’s no doubt some still are. So let’s address them.

First, Augusta isn’t resistant to necessary change.

Fact is – and our archived editorials bear this out – this newspaper and most of the area’s leadership and constituencies were firmly behind the consolidation of Augusta State University and the former Medical College of Georgia.

We knew that would result in massive change. We knew there would be upheaval. We knew there would be some sacred cow-tipping.

But the chancellor seems to say that neither the changes nor the manner in which they’re being carried out are open to scrutiny or question. And that anyone who questions how the consolidation is being carried out is just afraid of change.

Or maybe we’re just being provincial – particularly in the community’s near-unanimous and unabated revulsion to the name Georgia Regents University. Maybe that’s it; we just think this is our university, and it should have Augusta in the name. Maybe that’s why we need to be told that GRU has a statewide mission.

Well, to our friends in Atlanta: We understand this is a state university with a statewide mission. We always have. And we’ve always taken great pride in that.

How our pride in Augusta State University was turned into a bad thing is beyond us. It’s not. Folks in Atlanta should be thrilled that Augustans care this much about our state institutions. Instead, they think we need to be lectured.

And about the name: If some people think we’re being provincial, how does that explain Dr. Azziz’s $45,000 national survey that ranked “University of Augusta” or something close to it as the best name for the new U?

As for our concerns about the consolidation either being provincial or coming from an irrational fear of change: How does that explain the seven-page, single-spaced letter of concern from Shirley Kenny, the recent interim president of ASU? Dr. Kenny doesn’t even live here, so she’s hardly a product of provincialism – yet, her letter is
an alarming indictment of how the consolidation is being handled, and of Dr. Azziz’s leadership.

Moreover, if folks in Atlanta want to look into that leadership, they could poke around a bit in Augusta. They’d find faculties and administrators who are living in fear but who are on the verge of rebellion against the authoritarian rule of Dr. Azziz. They’d also find a community fed up with his arrogant excesses, condescension and betrayals.

They might also learn that Augusta rightly feels betrayed. Just one example: In return for swallowing the GRU name, Augusta activists got Azziz to promise to use the name Augusta in branding the new U. Gov. Nathan Deal was even under the impression that was being done. But an Augusta television reporter recently showed the governor Azziz’s stationery – which never mentioned the word Augusta.

State officials seem not to know the first thing about what’s going on here. We hope we’re wrong, and look forward to being proved wrong – particularly by a willingness to work with us on these ongoing problems.

Change agents have to be willing to change too.

Comments (13) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Riverman1
93674
Points
Riverman1 05/17/13 - 03:29 am
7
0
Straw Man

Mr. Huckaby gave the obsequious audience a dressing down that they seemed to accept for the purpose of decorum and not embarrassing the Chancellor. Indeed, the head of the Chamber of Commerce explained they wouldn’t take uncomfortable questions from the audience. As the editors say, most in the community were behind the consolidation and viewed Dr. Azziz in a positive way when he arrived. The city has done nothing wrong and has supported both schools. It appears Dr. Azziz and possibly others have built a straw man of an imagined reluctance of Augusta to combine the schools in order to justify running roughshod over the staff at the schools and the people of the CSRA.

Riverman1
93674
Points
Riverman1 05/17/13 - 03:31 am
7
0
The Pay-off is for What?

It’s interesting any time a legitimate complaint is brought up about Azziz’s leadership we are reminded of all the money being spent here for construction of new buildings. Are they tacitly saying they believe we have been wronged? Are they telling us they are rewarding the community and we should accept the inappropriate name, lies and generally poor leadership of Azziz?

I assumed new construction and projects were approved for the schools because it would increase the ability of the schools to serve the people? It appears the Chancellor and Regents have falsely supposed the city is against the merger of the schools instead of only questioning the mistakes and arrogance of Azziz. They want us to believe we are being compensated for the mistakes when the new construction was clearly the right thing to do no matter the controversy.

Bodhisattva
7209
Points
Bodhisattva 05/17/13 - 04:25 am
6
1
If the Chancellor doesn't

If the Chancellor doesn't think this area supports Azziz and his role as a "change agent", all he'll need to do is look at the size of the going away party that's thrown when he finally leaves Augusta.

Bizkit
35555
Points
Bizkit 05/17/13 - 07:16 am
4
1
It is the progressive

It is the progressive mindset-always change, change is always good. Which is just inane. Evolution is change but also maintaining what works too. Sharks and numerous other species have changed little in millions of years-Why?? Because their design works. The problem here is the state is strapped for funds and they are seeking funds. Now comes the agents of "change" who blow smoke up their butts that if you do A,B,C, D you will be successful like University A,B,C. Yet ignoring the temporal and spatial sequences that produced University A,B,C success will not likely occur here. I see it all the time-and it isn't the first at MCG. The IMMAG was such an attempt by hiring a bunch of people from Yale. Actually the school has lots of very productive people for a very long time-many world renown researchers. My bet the State will invest (progressive spend, spend, spend) expecting a big return but will eventually be left strapped. In order for Azziz's ideas to be successful he will have to change the whole culture and social structure of Augusta. Good luck on that one. There chasing a pot of gold linked to research (which I love and support) but it doesn't address the immediate needs of the state to provide more health care providers. If they can expand MCG into GRU-why do they need another medical school in Athens. Why not just expand this effort here. Redundancy doesn't seem to save money. Wasn't all this about "saving " money?

Bizkit
35555
Points
Bizkit 05/17/13 - 07:36 am
2
1
We don't need progressives

We don't need progressives like Azziz who just apply old formulas expecting a certain outcome. No, we need an innovator who can work with the assets we have and turn our weaknesses into strengths. Rather than try an old formula that worked for say the Chapel Hill area we need to get ahead of the ball and develop a new plan (our own designed for this specific area at this specific time) that will be the formula these progressive carpet baggers will be applying elsewhere. These old formulas are behind the ball and sure they worked but not always. Like Bush and the Bush tax cuts (which historically should have been very successful) that didn't really work this time. I would say the same of any Keynesian economic success-isn't a prelude to it always succeeding.

seenitB4
97524
Points
seenitB4 05/17/13 - 07:37 am
4
0
Change can also be a downer

Ask J C Penney about their change...they just dumped their change ceo & are going back to the true JC Penney ......alas....some wise up & some don't.......I really hope it isn't too late for Penneys.......dunno what will happen in Augusta.....but the Guv needs to realize this isn't his hometown of Gainesville Ga....you want to be Guv again...don't you??

Gary Ross
3347
Points
Gary Ross 05/17/13 - 08:19 am
2
1
Too much of a good thing is bad

All we hear anymore is change, change, change. I agree that some change is necessary to advance a society, but the results of too much change (current obama administration for example) is dangerous and anti-productive. Keep the name Augusta! The people of Augusta want it. What's wrong with that? Kennesaw State University kept their name. Does everything have to be so bland and politically correct?

deestafford
31901
Points
deestafford 05/17/13 - 08:38 am
3
1
One thing evident for the city of Augusta

is that over the years and decades in a state, power in the capitol ebbs and flows from one section of the state to another and for the past few years Augusta has had no power in Atlanta. It has no representation on the Board of Regents and it lacks local representatives on some other boards and commissions. This results in ignorance about the beliefs and concerns of the people of Augusta by the board/commission members. This was clearly shown in the decision making by the BOR on the consolidation and renaming of the universities here in Augusta. If I remember correctly, Dr Bloodsworth was kept in the dark until the last minute about the consolidation.

BTW. Contrary to one of the comments above, tax revenue increased significantly as a result of the Bush Tax Cuts. Spending increases caused many of the problems, but the subprime housing situation caused the economical collapse.

Little Lamb
49038
Points
Little Lamb 05/17/13 - 09:03 am
7
0
Corruption

If nothing else, Mr. Huckaby's speech showed that the Board of Regents will not censure Dr. Azziz for his misuse of government property and other resources. So look forward to more abuse from Azziz. He has free rein to reign.

Red Headed Step Child
4490
Points
Red Headed Step Child 05/17/13 - 10:38 am
2
0
If anyone expected him to

If anyone expected him to come here and go against anything Azziz has done, you were destined for disappointment. It's obvious the BOR has "his back" and apparently will continue to do so. We're just a bunch of rubes here, and we just don't understand what is "good" for us. Lube up, Augusta - they're not done sticking it to us..

Fiat_Lux
16422
Points
Fiat_Lux 05/17/13 - 12:10 pm
2
0
And here's Azziz'z mea culpa (sort of) for his misappropriation

(We lesser lights would have summarily gotten the ax.)

May 17, 2013

Dear University & Health System Community:

Last month I requested an external review and clarification of support for the president and Twin Gables use and projects from the University System of Georgia (USG). This review is now complete and I am sharing the final report with you.

The report notes that the USG review team “did not detect intent on the part of GRU senior administrators to violate Board Policy or misuse state resources.” However, the report does find that GRU was not in compliance with all current Board Policies, and the report makes several recommendations for improvement. I accept responsibility for the issues identified in the report, and I am committed to addressing those issues and implementing the recommendations.

Following is a summary of the findings from the review and the immediate actions we are now implementing:

• Lack of awareness of USG policies and the need for more coordinated communication.
The review noted lack of awareness of all policies relating to the use of university resources and to the undertaking of improvements on the Twin Gables property, operating in some cases on what practices had been followed in the past. In addition, although a number of administrators were aware of the planned initiatives, insufficient communication and coordination between those with responsibility occurred.

Immediate Corrective Actions: Knowledge of current policy is critical for effective and compliant operations. We have conducted a six-hour session on board policies for senior University leadership, and we plan to extend training to the rest of the University administration. We also are implementing formalized processes to ensure that compliance, enterprise risk management, and coordinated communication remain a focus of our decision making and actions at all times.

• Use of university staff and resources.
Twin Gables is University property and serves as a venue for many University activities and as home to my family and me. A family wedding was planned at the property, with notification to University staff made. The procedure followed was the same as for similar events hosted by previous presidents. However, some of the decisions for this event were not consistent with current policy.

The report also addresses the four occasions in which my office made arrangements for assistance picking my children up from school. While much of this need resulted from the fact that my family and I were new residents to our community, subsequent review of these circumstances by my staff and I resulted in clarification of the policy and ceasing of such support in 2010.

Immediate Corrective Actions: We are updating the relevant job descriptions, policies and guidance to ensure that the staff’s roles are appropriately defined.

• Lack of USG approval for improvements on the Twin Gables property.
Twin Gables is a significant and historical University asset. While the University is responsible for routine maintenance of the property, Twin Gables also merits, like all University facilities, investment in improvements. Planning for a carport adjacent to the current two-car garage at Twin Gables began in early 2012. While multiple options were initially considered for construction, the historic nature of the property mandated that the carport be planned in accordance with local historical preservation guidelines.
Since capital projects of less than $1M do not require prior Board of Regents approval, University Facilities was proceeding with the planning and bidding out of the project under the USG delegated authority guidelines of 2007. We were unaware of a prior USG Board of Regents policy which required that all improvements at presidents’ residences be approved by the Board of Regents. The report identifies improvements at Twin Gables associated with my tenure as President which should have been submitted for approval.

Immediate Corrective Actions: We are updating our project approval process to ensure that appropriate approval is obtained for all applicable work on our facilities.

I am grateful to the efforts of the USG audit team, and accept full responsibility for the issues identified in the report and for implementing the recommendations the review prescribes. My team and I are taking corrective actions more extensive than the review recommends. These actions will be a top priority, and they will all be achieved as quickly as possible.

Our goal is to ensure we are always in compliance with all applicable University and Health System and USG Board of Regents policies, as well as applicable state and federal laws. We can and must demonstrate the highest and most compliant operating standards in an open, collegial, and collaborative manner.

This was a valuable, albeit difficult, lesson for us. So what have we learned from this experience?

1. Firstly, just because a current action follows what may have been done previously in some cases does not mean that we are following the correct process nor recognizing current policy. This not only applies to the President’s office but to our entire campus, particularly as we work through the complexities of our consolidation and our traditional ways of doing things.

2. Secondly, as a public institution we are rightly subject to public interest and scrutiny in every aspect of our operations. In order to ensure consistent compliance with policies and procedures, it is essential that we encourage personnel to communicate and coordinate across the enterprise and campus to minimize the risk of mistakes.

3. Thirdly, we need to do a better job of ensuring all employees – especially new hires – are informed and aware of existing relevant policies and procedures.

The findings, recommendations and corrective actions we are taking reaffirm that we, individually and collectively, are accountable for our activities. All areas of our University and Health System community, including the President’s office and myself, will be held to the same high standards of accountability, honesty and reliability. The resources of this great University and Health System are entrusted in me, along with an obligation to uphold our core value of integrity. GRU and GRHealth endeavors to be an educational institution and academic health care system which our students, patients, families, faculty, staff, alumni, and community can be proud of.

Sincerely,

Ricardo Azziz, MD, MPH, MBA
Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Medicine, and Medical Humanities
President, Georgia Regents University
CEO, Georgia Regents Health System

Fiat_Lux
16422
Points
Fiat_Lux 05/17/13 - 02:17 pm
2
0
How do you like the royal "We"?

Moved comment over the article about this spew.

KSL
143815
Points
KSL 05/17/13 - 08:56 pm
0
1
Get rid

Of Huckaby ASAP. He is terrible!

KSL
143815
Points
KSL 05/17/13 - 08:57 pm
0
1
No wonder Augusta is stuck

No wonder Augusta is stuck with Az.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Daniel Field removes trees, lights structures in airspace

Daniel Field, managed by operations company Augusta Aviation, has spent more than $30,000 conducting land surveys, removing 30 trees and installing red blinking lights on top of the Newman Tennis ...
Search Augusta jobs