Stop bickering and embrace new university

A great deal of attention has been directed toward the decision of the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents to rename universities in Augusta.

Proud citizens have united to express to the Board of Regents and Georgia Regents University President Ricardo Azziz their displeasure with the new name of the school created by the merging of the former Medical College of Georgia and Augusta State University. Central to the expressed concerns is the absence of “Augusta” in the new name. The decision to go with a name that was not among the preferred ones identified by study groups has offended many.

The Augusta Chronicle has taken up the cause, correctly reporting that evidence of “Augusta State University” has been digitally removed from important photographs marking achievements by the university. (To his credit, Dr. Azziz has addressed this matter in an open letter, accepting responsibility for the error.)

 

AS I DRIVE through Augusta neighborhoods, I note that several “Save the A” yard signs remain from the citizens’ campaign.

My attachment to Augusta is very deep. I have been witness to many events here – both positive and not-so-positive – over the years. I am proud of the work my husband, the late U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, did on behalf of our community. I’m confident that Charlie is remembered as “the congressman from Augusta.”

Lingering on past disappointments constrains the healthy development of the future Augusta. I want us to bind our wounds, and to come together as a citizenry.

Just as Helen Blocker-Adams stated in her thoughtful column discussing racial healing and recovery (“Augusta can move forward – but only after hearts are healed,” March 3), I believe, “(w)hen we reflect on events of yesterday, we recognize that we can’t change what happened, even though we may want to.” Ms. Blocker-Adams continues, “Think about it: In some ways Augusta is prospering, but in other cases we are leading statistics all over the state in poverty, high-school dropout rates, incarceration, HIV/AIDS and homelessness.”

We are subjected daily to a negative portrayal of loyal opposition, and no one is benefitting. This truth applies to all unpleasantness concerning the name of our new university.

It is of critical importance that we not lose sight of three very important considerations in this matter:

• Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and our state leaders believe so strongly in Augusta that they have invested $100 million specifically in Georgia Regents University.

• Georgia’s 2014 state budget has more than $60 million allocated to build a cancer research center in Augusta.

• Augusta will be Georgia’s hub for medical education, research and innovation, led by the highly-qualified Dr. Azziz and likewise qualified administration and faculty.

We tout ourselves as Georgia’s second-largest metropolis – and by some measurements we are – but Augusta is also a first-rate place to live:

• Augusta offers easy access to goods and services to its citizens.

• Augusta is recognized as a
place where housing and quality of life are among the most-affordable
in our nation.

• Augusta is known internationally for its golf tournament, but it is appreciated locally for its friendly people, lovely neighborhoods, diverse natural beauty, excellent roads and its lively-yet-intimate downtown’s shops, restaurants and entertainment.

 

WE ARE THE stewards of a unique balance of lifestyle opportunities. Manufacturing, military, cultural, scientific and scholarly enterprises all flourish in our community. This cannot be said of most cities the size of Augusta. Please ponder this: Augusta’s academic infrastructure is regionally prominent. It is a very important part of who we are.

Augusta faces challenges. Mistakes have been made in the process of combining the two universities: human error; oversight; misinterpretations of decisions. However, many very good decisions have moved this huge endeavor forward. As a community, we must move beyond constant criticism, and stop being our own worst enemy.

To assure that Augusta has one of the national top-50 research institutions that Gov. Deal and the Board of Regents envision, it is appropriate that we move beyond bickering over the name.

Community leaders, political leaders and educational leaders must develop GRU as a vital entity, and deliver to our children and grandchildren a flourishing institution that is woven into the very fiber of our community. Growing regional unity always is our prime directive.

 

(The writer is the widow of Rep. Charlie Norwood, who represented the Augusta area’s District 10 in the U.S. House of Representatives.)

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