Azziz misjudged GRU decision 'by a mile'

(Editor’s note: The following column, originally posted on the writer’s Facebook page as an open letter to Georgia Health Sciences University President Ricardo Azziz, was submitted to The Augusta Chronicle with the writer’s permission.)

I have been following with much interest the consolidation of Georgia Health Sciences University and Augusta State University, and the renaming process of the new school. I must admit up-front that I was not satisfied with either the prior name change – to GHSU from the Medical College of Georgia – or this one. However, I genuinely felt that calls for your job were premature and perhaps vindictive. I have a family and a career as well; I understand.

I FOUND THE email you wrote to the “branding team” of some interest as well. In it you asked GHSU Senior Vice President Susan Barcus and the others to consider how many Research I universities – schools engaged in extensive research activity – are named for cities of fewer than a million people. I thought about that, too.

Then I researched the matter.

Using the criteria set forth in the email, I found several examples of institutions your email implied scarcely, if ever, exist. The most recent year I could find is 2010. Those lists don’t change much; I looked at several. To name just a few:

• University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

• University of Wisconsin-Madison

• Princeton University

• Stanford University

• University of California-Berkeley

• University of California-Davis

You get the idea.

Sir, with all due respect, I think you misjudged this one by a mile. I respect your stated goal of seeing my alma mater become a top research university. I have the same goal. Had you gone to the people of Augusta and the state of Georgia (with my above-mentioned list as supportive evidence in late April) – with both still awash in the afterglow of University of Georgia graduate Bubba Watson’s Masters Tournament victory – and suggested we charge ahead together as “the University of Georgia at Augusta,” they would probably put a bust of your likeness in the Greenblatt Library.

BUT YOU HAVE publicly displayed confidence in the name “Georgia Regents University” as the banner we should all move forward under to land on such a list. Anyone with the Internet and 15 minutes can find the research I found.

Now that the email is out there – and the criteria you used to convince the branding team that Augusta, proud and gracious host of our school for almost 200 years, ought not share in the naming honors; and, should you continue to press forward with your public support for the name Georgia Regents University – I would suggest having an explanation of how “Georgia Regents University,” and those I listed, will populate that list in the future, but why “University of Georgia-Augusta” never, ever could under that banner.

I would suggest having an answer for that inevitable query other than spending money on “branding.” The branding already is there all around you, sir. It’s already there for free.

NOW, IF YOU think the Board of Regents might change their mind yet, and everyone does not have renaming fatigue, take my idea and run with it. Take credit for it yourself. This one’s on me. I’m sure it’s not lost on you that an awful lot of people have bees in their bonnets over the eventual outcome of the new renaming. Mine is an easy sell – something for everyone. It is called “university” – that was important to you. It is called “Georgia” – that is important to Georgians. It is called “Augusta” – that is important to Augustans.

And my school there will always be called MCG – and I sincerely appreciated the compromise on that in the renaming two years ago. That is important to me.

Alternatively, you can stick to your guns on the name you picked. How’s that working out for you, sir?

(The writer is a Macon internist and a 1997 graduate of the Medical College of Georgia.)

Topic Page: University Merger

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