Azziz says he's moved on over name of 'New U' despite protests, name-calling

Friday, Aug. 24, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- GSHU President Dr. Riccardo Azziz addressed a room full of Augusta's movers and shakers at Friday's chamber luncheon. He talked about the benefits of merging the medical school with Augusta State -- but he never once mentioned the "New U's" new name.

And he didn't just avoid the controversy surrounding it -- he never said it when talking about the two schools as one. But he did reference a meeting this week with the Georgia Board of Regents -- and the topic of money.

"I will tell you I was at a meeting where a president whose name shall go unknown on Tuesday poked me in the chest and kept saying to me, 'I don't get it. Why does the governor want to invest in Augusta?' And I thought to myself, 'Because you don't get it,'" Azziz said.

Of course, that investment is the $150 million the Board of Regents is pledging for the "New U's" budget.

That's three times more than any other college or university in the state. But that "you don't get it" sentiment isn't just directed at that president "whose name shall go unknown."

When he was finished with his presentation, there was a question and answer period. The hundreds of people in that room at the Augusta Marriott could raise their hands and ask anything.

Not one person asked him about the name -- or anything else about the recent controversy surrounding it.

When News 12's Meredith Anderson went to talk to him about it, his media representative stepped in and said he'd go on camera, but the name was off limits.

"I was told not to ask you about the name. Are you surprised nobody else in the building did?" Anderson asked.

"Tom asked me and the answer is no, I'm not surprised. I think most of the community that understands where we're going has moved on," Azziz replied.

But a lot of people who do understand are still not ready to move on.

There's still a lot of anger -- and a lot of you are speaking up.

After a lot of name-calling, anger and even protests, some of you are taking this straight to the top. As in: Gov. Nathan Deal.

News 12 got its hands on the number of people who've called Deal's constituent hotline to complain about the name Georgia Regents University.

The 228 callers want him to do something about it, but his office wants to point out that Gov. Deal doesn't have a vote on the issue.

The name controversy is also causing problems in Columbia County.

The Ed Turner and Number 9 band is ending a partnership with the Columbia County Exchange Club over the name. Turner made some comments about it and is angry the civic group asked him to apologize. Over the past six years, he says ticket sales have raised $300,000 for charity but now he's done with the club.

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