I Guess ‘Ivory Tower Institute’ Was Taken

What good is occupying the top floor of an ivory tower if no one else understands that it is a monument to your awesomeness?  The Georgia Board of Regents, the appointed untouchables of Georgia’s political class, have decided that you may not be keenly aware of their power, importance, and impact on your lives.  As such, they have chosen to hijack the re-naming process of two merged Augusta institutions – including Georgia’s flagship medical school – and name it after…themselves.

Welcome to Georgia Regent University.

Let’s let Rick McGee of The Augusta Chronicle lead off our thoughts with the graphic interpretation of this move.  We thank him for allowing us use of his work here.

For background, let’s move over to Tom Corwin’s writeup:

After months of discussion and thousands of suggestions, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved the new name for the consolidated Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities Tuesday afternoon.

The name was one of three finalists, which included University of Augusta and Georgia Arts & Sciences University.

Fair enough.  So how did that go over?  Meg Mirshak picks up there.

“I don’t know why they would name it this,” Kaitlyn Browning, a student in the College of Allied Health Sciences at Georgia Health Sciences University, said of the new name: Georgia Regents University. “I don’t think I’ve heard a single person that’s liked this at all.”

Browning said she’s “irritated” that GHSU has its second name change in two years.

Chris Nabholz, a junior at Augusta State University, feels the Board of Regents did not consider input from students or the community.

“They’re obviously not in it for us,” Nabholz said.

In it for “us”?  That’s the funny thing about students these days.  They think higher education is somehow supposed to be about them.  What they’ll learn, soon after they graduate with piles of student debt, is that the entire experience for many has been reduced to useful idiots borrowing as much federally guaranteed money as they can so that institutions can continue to protect academics from the real world.  And it’s about time we started acknowledging this.  There is no better way than naming instituions after those they serve: the administrators.

Now let’s let Chris Gay tie it all together and bring it home:

Take a second to breathe it in. Now, feel free to gag – and/or shout out every bad word that cannot be printed in this blog. We have the second largest city in Georgia and this is the best Dr. Azziz and the Georgia Board of Regents can do? GRU? The villain from “Despicable Me?” You’ve got to be kidding me. This name will fly like a lead balloon.

I always laugh when I read these stories about zombies, but I now know they really exist. They exist in the form of political appointees who serve on the Board of Regents. Unfortunately, Vice Chairman William NeSmith Jr., couldn’t fend them all off by himself at the meeting. Wait a minute. I apologize for the insult. We all know zombies, unlike our “friends” at the Board of Regents  would’ve been more open-minded about the name of the consolidated university between Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities.

University of Augusta may not mean much others, but for we Augustans and the many others who graduated from Augusta College or Augusta State University it means a lot. Thanks to Dr. Azziz, the Georgia Board of Regents and others who could care less about Augusta for showing blatant disregard to our community today with this tomfoolish name — Georgia Regents University. That’s really uncool.

Don’t expect GRU to grow on our fair city. And don’t expect many people — today, tomorrow, next week, next month or next year — to be happy over the decision to choose this name. One day in the future, the distant future, we may forgive. But we will never forget.

45 comments

  1. drjay says:

    as an alum of mcg, i was originally dubious of the plan to merge the two schools to begin with, and now this name is beyond reprehensible. i still have enough of a conspiracy theorist in me that i think this is all part of the evil plot to strip augusta of the med school and send it to athens, as has been a rumored desire of the powers that be for years…

    • wicker says:

      The opposite is true. Rather than stripping the medical school from MCG-GHSU-GRU and giving it to UGA, the goal is to use MCG’s existing huge medical research as the basis for building a badly needed fourth public comprehensive research university in the state. Yes, I do mean “badly needed” because Georgia has only 4 research universities: GT, Emory, UGA, GSU. Of those, only GT has a full blown engineering school (a fact that is being remedied) and only Emory has a medical school (and it is private), plus GSU is still a huge work in progress, and UGA is perhaps the only university in the nation that was attempting to be a research power without either a medical or engineering school, which are only the two biggest sources of research dollars and prestige (with even a lot of the dollars in basic chemistry, biology and physics being tied to engineering and medicine these days).

      Without tourism like Florida and oil like Texas, education – and specifically high end university level research – is the main tool for developing our own jobs and attracting out of state ones. North Carolina figured this out a long time ago with their research triangle. We’re only like 30 or 40 years behind them in that regards. So, rather than stripping the medical school from MCG-GHSU-GRU, the state is going just going to give UGA their own full blown medical school down the line, meaning that at last Georgia will have more than 1 public medical school. By point of comparison, Florida has 4 such animals: UF, FSU, USF and FIU (and UCF will have one too within 20 years) to go with several private medical schools. And yes, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina all have at least 2 public medical schools. So, considering where we are in university education, transportation, natural resources … good thing we have that big airport!

      • drjay says:

        maybe, i just know that the rumor was always around when i was in augusta, that “someone” be it perdue or adams or whoever wanted to move the school out of augusta, because of a laundry list of reasons: would be easier to recruit faculty, recruit higher quality students, get research money, etc…if the school was in athens, or even atl…it may have been more urban legend than fact for all i know…

        • wicker says:

          Moving a university – or even a major unit of it like a medical school – was much easier back in the day. Now, it is pretty much impossible. It would have been easier to just give MCG to UGA – make it a branch campus of UGA – than to move it, if for no reason other than wholesale moving it would have meant mothballing those massive MCG medical and allied health facilities. But the fear of mighty UGA (which Georgia Tech shares, and incidentally GSU also fears being merged with GT) only exists because Georgia has no coherent higher education strategy or philosophy to transform the system, or even a commitment to adequately funding the system that they do have. They would rather just keep rearranging the deck chairs.

      • CobbGOPer says:

        Kennesaw State should be the 4th research university, the infrastructure is there (with room to grow), and the student population is there (3rd largest university in the state behind UGA and GSU). It has a good location in metro Atlanta. It just needs commitment by the state.

        • wicker says:

          Can’t be a research university without research programs. GT, UGA, GSU and MCG/GHSU/GRU have existing research programs to build on. KSU doesn’t. And if by “good location” you mean a half hour from 3 of the state’s 4 existing research universities (GT, Emory, GSU) you might want to rethink that. It is a much better ideas to spread the research universities, and the jobs and highly talented professionals that come with it, around the state. A better argument can be made for pouring more money into Valdosta State and Georgia Southern than trying to make KSU more competitive with Georgia State.

          That being said, I have nothing against KSU. But the local community needs to step in and pump money into that school, which is how FIU became a regional research university. They didn’t get much money or attention from the state, but their president raised a ton of money and they pretty much did it on their own. If KSU is going to be Georgia’s suburban alternative university, that is how it is going to have to happen – and how it should happen.

            • horatio says:

              Last I checked, Georgia Southern was the one with a College of Engineering, not KSU. And higher SAT scores among incoming freshmen.

              • CobbGOPer says:

                If an Engineering school is the requirement then why is no one talking about SPSU?

                But you’re right, we don’t have a College of Engineering. Yet.

                • horatio says:

                  Good point, it’s not necessarily a must-have but definitely is an important distinguishing feature.

                  With all due respect, I don’t think SPSU is considered on par with either Southern or KSU, even within our own state.

          • CobbGOPer says:

            Why does the 3rd largest university in the state need the local community to step in (not that I’m against more local involvement) to help? Oh, right, because the Regents are idiots.

        • Happy Face says:

          Just like not every person needs to go to college, not every university needs to be a research university. KSU is a fine school and performs its mission well. The students attending KSU don’t need it to become Georgia Tech. Size of all things has absolutely nothing to do with the ability or the need of a school to become a research university. Let KSU be KSU and serve the needs that have allowed it to grow into the institution that it is today.

          • CobbGOPer says:

            Because if it’s a research university it makes my diploma more valuable. As well as for the many thousands of other current and future graduates (a number which will only grow, as I stated before, because the school is large and growing still).

            “The students attending KSU don’t need it to become Georgia Tech.” That’s just silly. You don’t think KSU students would want their school to have a comparable academic reputation to GT or UGA? Particularly when they’re going to be competing for jobs with students from those institutions?

            Or are you like most people who consider KSU to really be “Georgia Teacher College (with some Nursing thrown in for good measure)”?

            • Charlie says:

              “Because if it’s a research university it makes my diploma more valuable”

              KSU can perfect cold fusion and your diploma is still going to say political science.

  2. Jackster says:

    If I saw my doctor had graduated from Georgia Regent University, I would wonder about the background and pedigree. Look for them to have to give massive incentives to attract medical students.

  3. CobbGOPer says:

    So University of North Georgia was just fine for NGC/Gainesville State merger, but University of Augusta was a problem?

        • wicker says:

          I thought somebody was going to say “Auburn” so it is cool that you called me on Syracuse :-). But Syracuse University was founded in 1870. Let’s just say that the needs associated with branding and marketing research universities are different now. Don’t get me wrong … GRU is a bad name. I just don’t think that you are going to have much luck getting a National Merit Scholar from Kansas to come seek his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Augusta.

  4. wicker says:

    Ugh. It sounds like an online school.

    Picking a name for this school was going to be a challenge, because it appears that they want GHSU to be a comprehensive nationally or regionally competitive research university. Granted, that precludes a field-specific moniker like MCG or GHSU, as only the A&M’s (i.e. Texas A&M) and Tech’s (either institute of technology or polytechnic state university) get the benefit of those names without being marginalized. Augusta also isn’t prominent enough for one of the “city university” deals like UCLA or Pittsburgh and you kind of want to avoid the “directional school” thing. So, with the University of Georgia, Georgia State University and Georgia Tech names taken – even Georgia Southern is taken – then they were stuck.

    Florida had a similar problem, which is why they had to resort to such names as Florida International University (which is becoming a pretty decent research school despite UF, FSU, UCF and USF being higher on the food chain … hey maybe their having more actual universities than us is a reason why they have more growing urban areas than us … just a thought) and Florida Gulf Coast University.

    The regents take a lot of hits, but their fundamental problem is that our state has no real higher education policy, strategy or vision (and hasn’t for decades) and higher education in this state is underfunded. And as conservatives see higher education as a bastion for far left types (a view that is not completely without justification) it is only going to continue and is probably going to get worse before it gets better. But in this specific case, picking a name that says “aspiring comprehensive research university” was going to be difficult no matter what.

      • horatio says:

        Agreed. I can’t imagine that a lot of prospective med school students will be anxious to get their medical degrees from a somewhere that sounds no better than “University of Phoenix School of Medicine.”

    • wicker says:

      The problem with that is that there is technically no “University of Georgia” to speak of. California, Texas, Alabama, Michigan etc. are able to do that because of the way that their universities are organized, either a “flagship university” that is responsible for a system of smaller universities (i.e. Texas and Alabama) or a bunch of co-equal (in theory) universities (California, Michigan).

      So they are able to do University of California at Los Angeles, University of California at San Diego, University of California at Berkeley/University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas at San Antonio, University of Texas at Arlington/University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa, University of Alabama-Birmingham, University of Alabama-Huntsville etc.

      Since Georgia doesn’t have that type of setup, they can’t name it “University of Georgia-Augusta” because it would have no affiliation with the University of Georgia (the one in Athens). So like I said, picking a good name would have been a challenge because the options were limited. I probably would have gone with Georgia Atlantic University or Georgia Coastal University.

  5. trainsplz says:

    the finalists were GRU, GASU, and U Augusta? blecch. being a tech alum, it seemed like the sole purpose of the regents was to raise our fees by 100 bucks a semester.

    • wicker says:

      A) Sounds like an online school and B) not ideal for a school that offers Ph.Ds and other terminal degrees.

        • Charlie says:

          Well, Bobby Jones U wouldn’t change the confusion much from Regent and it’s association with Pat Robertson’s school of science denial and hurricane avoidance.

          • Calypso says:

            Not to mention Robertson’s school of Matrimonial (heterosexual, of course) Studies, where you learn how to sinlessly cheat on your wife providing she has Alzheimer’s.

  6. Holly says:

    Charlie, thanks for this article. However, it doesn’t nearly sum up the anger factor from these parts. People are MAD, and they should be! This was a terrible process and a terrible selection.

    Late last week, it was reported that the agenda for the Board of Regents meeting this week included “to approve the name Georgia Regents University,” and the board was so taken aback by the public backlash that they backpedaled and said they were still considering other names.

    Only, they weren’t. So, not only did this group choose to name the university after themselves, they lied about their intentions. That made it all the worse. Chris Gay is quite correct that we will never forget, but many will never forgive, either.

  7. bucky says:

    On this issue of confusion with Pat Robertson’s Regent University in Va: I see Regent’s attorney wrote our Board of Regents warning them of trademark infringement/dilution. Any of you legal whizzes think that might hold water? Seems to me it could be a problem, same as it would if they named the place “Georgia Harvard University” or something.

  8. saltycracker says:

    I’ve been very impressed with Ga Med now GHS over the years, particularly the pride and drive the faculty transfers to the students. We would think the Regents got their ear to the ground on how this combining and renaming affects the morale of the staff or distracks the school from its purpose. Were they consulted (they are a high paid group of very involved, capable, smart folks) ?

    Any feedback on that or just public opinions ?

  9. SallyForth says:

    ‘Guess the head of GA Regents University will be titled “King” instead of president. Or maybe Chancellor Jr.?

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