WJBF EXTRA: "Save The A" A Factor In Getting Augusta Into New U - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

WJBF EXTRA: "Save The A" A Factor In Getting Augusta Into New U Name

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By George Eskola

It was something to shake on; Augusta’s new "U" is getting a new name, a compromise as a way to save the "A".

“So what we will see, and what the world will see, and what the state will see, will be Georgia Regents University Augusta and that's the name we'll be moving forward with...in our logo, our marketing, and our communications material,” said Georgia Health Sciences University president and CEO, Doctor Ricardo Azziz.

Those who have lead the fight to change the name voiced support for the G-R-U-A compromise to get Augusta into the title.

“We are ready to rally behind Doctor Azziz, the chancellor, and bring our community together. This is a great day,” said "Save the A" organizer Nick Evans.

But, for the past several weeks, "Save the A" wasn't ready to rally behind Doctor Azziz because of the name: Georgia Regents University.  

It motivated people like Jayne Mehrhof, a mom who became part of the movement to save the "A". “It's being forced on us and I do believe the majority of citizens are against this that's its being rammed through,” she said.

“Georgia Regents means nothing, it has no identity, it has no history, it will cost tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars to build a brand around that. Our brand already exists,” said David Steele, who served as a spokesperson for "Save the A".

“We supported the merger, and we would have supported a name that respected the wishes of the community. It's the fact of the process, the way it was done, the fact that it completely ignores the identity of Augusta in the name that gives us heartburn,” said Steele.

What also caused "Save the A" heartburn was the fact the name Georgia Regents University sparked a lawsuit, but before the announcement, Doctor Azziz didn't think the lawsuit made Georgia Regents a bad name. “In fact, some would argue that the fact that somebody cares about the name to actually try and sue you to stop using it because it has a value," he said.

"I think that is laughable, I think Doctor Azziz has been going from rationalization to rationalization,” said Steele.

Doctor Azziz was pleased and happy to announce that Augusta would be included in the name of the new U, but in the weeks leading up to this announcement, he said he wasn't interested in the "Save the A" protest. “We haven't spent a lot of time thinking whether 'Save the A', or any other movement, really has validity or not. We have a lot of work, we've been focusing on that work, looking to the future,” he said, in a sit-down interview last week.

But, in this case, community pressure to save the A changed the state of Georgia. We asked University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby if it was the pressure of "Save the A" that led to this decision. “It played a factor in that, but it wasn't the only factor,” said Huckaby.

The Chancellor did not say what other factors were involved.

Azziz contended, from the start, that the name of the University was the choice of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, and could only be changed by the Regents, but now says adding Augusta doesn't need a vote by the Regents

“The way we show ourselves to the world is in the purview of the University. It has received the blessing of the Chancellor, that's what's important and that is what is needed,” said Azziz.

The compromise doesn’t change the official name of the new consolidated school. It will remain Georgia Regents University, but what the public buys in terms of merchandise will see the brand Georgia Regents University Augusta.

It’s a compromise that was reached thanks in no small part to the "Save the A" effort.

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