Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Commissioners Should Reject Resolution on Naming the New University

MCG nor GHSU have Augusta in the name
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Augusta, GA
By The Outsider

Since it was announced earlier this year that Augusta State and GHSU would merge, it seems like the biggest question on everyone's mind has been "what will the new name be?"  And if Commissioner Jerry Brigham has his way, it will have Augusta in the name. Brigham is introducing a resolution at today's Augusta Commission meeting to urge the Georgia Board of Regents to include Augusta prominently in the name of the new university. However, GHSU President  and soon to be President of the New U,  Ricardo Azziz, is none too happy with Brigham's political maneuvering. When Azziz got word of Brigham's plans to introduce the naming resolution, he said in the most polite way, to essentially butt out.

It's not that Dr Azziz doesn't appreciate name suggestions. We are pretty sure his email inbox has been flooded with them over the last few months. But it is pretty obvious that Azziz is not happy with the Augusta Commission circumventing the process by going directly to the Board of Regents insisting on a particular name. Azziz says there will be a time and a place for commissioners and the public to weigh in on the new name, but that time is not now.

And Azziz has a valid point. Why rush to give the new university a geographic-oriented name? Whereas having Augusta in the name may drum up a sense of civic pride in locals, it does have a rather provincial ring to it. And Azziz seems to be thinking bigger than local. He wants this to be a nationally recognized university.. not one that sounds like a regional community college. There's nothing wrong with Augusta State University... it's a great school , but for all intents and purposes, it is a regional commuter university. Shouldn't the new merged university be even bigger and better? And whereas the name Augusta may strike a chord of familiarity with golf aficionados around the world, let's be honest... our fair burg is not necessarily known as an academic and cultural center the world over. However, Azziz wants to change that, and  having a world-class university here will bring even more prestige to the Garden City than we could ever imagine.

And that's the whole problem with this resolution.. sometimes us locals are too myopic to see past the CSRA. Yes, Azziz isn't from around here.. and maybe that's a good thing, because he can see beyond the local boundaries and see a much greater potential for this new university and Augusta. And let's take a look at some of the most prestigious universities in the nation; few have their home city in their name. Duke University, arguably the best university in the South, is not called Durham University. And that doesn't seem to have hurt the prestige of the Research Triangle region one bit. Emory University, with its top ranked law, business, and medical schools, is not known as The University of Decatur, GA. It just somehow doesn't have the same ring to it. Prestigious Stanford University is not called Palo Alto U. Yale is not known as University of New Haven. See the pattern?

But you may be saying, "but those are all private schools!" True, but wouldn't it be nice to have this new university located right here in Augusta, GA on par with some of the best private universities in America? Now that would instill some civic pride!  And besides, the flagship state university for New Jersey is not known as University of New Jersey at New Brunswick...it's known as Rutgers. Sure, it would be nice if we could have it called the University of Georgia, but unfortunately that name is already taken. And sticking Augusta at the end would make it sound like a satellite school. And isn't that what we were so afraid would happen to GHSU when a medical school was opened in Athens? That GHSU would be relegated as a 2nd tier school instead of the state's flagship public medical university? Well, by approving this resolution today, Augusta commissioners could be playing right into the hands of UGA President Michael Adams and Athens civic boosters  who would like to see just that happen.

You see, Azziz is thinking big.. he's thinking outside the box... he believes Augusta can be bigger and better than any of us ever imagined. Let's trust his judgement on this one. If some local politicians had their way, the Golf and Gardens site would be home to a Class A minor league ballpark instead of  a world class research park, performing arts venues and student residences. Now which of those two options do you think will have a longer lasting impact on downtown?

So, as well intentioned as this resolution may be, the politicians really do need to butt out at this moment. Let's let the experts who know how to brand  world-class research universities come up with a few suggestions first. You may actually like what they come up with, instead of pigeon-holing ourselves with a provincial sounding  geographic-oriented name for the New U. If there was ever a time for commissioners to abstain from taking action... this is it. Think about it commissioners. Shouldn't you be working with Dr. Azziz to make this the best university possible, instead of obsessing over the name?***