Many gathered at the public forums on Thursday to express their thoughts on the name of the "New U" and the merger. (WRDW-TV / Aug. 16, 2012)
News 12 First at Five / Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Hundreds of students and community members showed up to voice their opinions Thursday at two public forums, one on the ASU campus and the other at GHSU.
It was a chance for people to ask questions about the new name and the merger, but things got pretty heated.
President Azziz himself even called the backlash to the newly-named Georgia Regents University a "firestorm."
One disgruntled alum said, "Quite frankly, GRU is a terrible name."
He voiced his opinions to hundreds of students, alum and members of the community, who were all gathered to speak out.
Haley Bourne, a senior at ASU, says, "I just wanted to hear what Dr. Azziz had to say about all of this, the consolidation and the name change, just wanted to hear his opinion."
In the forum, Dr. Azziz said, "People say, well if Augusta wasn't going to be in the name, why didn't they tell me in advance? I didn't know that, nobody knew that."
Things got a little heated as folks stepped up to the microphone to voice their opinions, one dissenter saying, "If they had selected something with Augusta in the name, everyone here would be all smiles today, but I am not sir, I am not."
His comments were met with thunderous applause as members of the community showed which side of the argument they were on.
Some even attacked Dr. Azziz directly.
"You need to be the kind of leader that can be able to admit a mistake," an ASU alum fired at the president, who responded, "Let me be very clear: We did not make a mistake."
Richmond County deputies, along with campus security, were on the scene. There were even members from the SWAT team, just in case things got out of hand at the forum.
One person said, "You can take it and you can make it a verb: We have been 'regented' here."
We searched high and low but couldn't find a single person who was happy with the "New U's" new name.
Morris Cockerm, an ASU alum and now an ASU employee, says, "The name change, I really don't like it. For one thing, GRU, I'd rather have Augusta or University of Augusta."
Dr. Azizz says the name is final and added the community needs to support the Board of Regents' decision.