Inkwell Editorial Board
The Georgia Board of Regents approved the merger between Georgia Southern University and Armstrong State University Wednesday, Jan. 11. Students were notified earlier this week on Jan. 17 of a website created by the University System of Georgia that aims to answer questions and address concerns regarding the impending merge.
According to the consolidation website, the merge process will take place over approximately 18 months, completing in the fall semester of 2018. But this date could change depending on the needs of the future institution.
Once the merger is complete, Armstrong will assume Georgia Southern’s title, their President, Dr. Jaimie Hebert, as well as bring the total student population to approximately 27,000 — roughly 20,000 more students than Armstrong’s current student body.
The Board of Regents believes the schools ultimately serve many of the same students. Georgia Southern is already the number-one transfer choice for Armstrong students and both institutions are among top destinations for students seeking public higher education from Bryan, Chatham, Effingham and Liberty counties.
Combining the institutions also allows for a broader range of degree programs, such as engineering and health care.
Although the Board of Regents promises growth for the new combined institution, the consolidation brings fear and many unanswered questions for students and faculty. Armstrong students rallied two protests on campus preceding the official vote. Student athletes conducted a 20 minute anti-merge video consisting of student-athletes and alumni voicing their opposition.
Several student-athletes told The Inkwell that they have asked for their transfer release and permission to contact, enabling them to begin their search for a new university. Others, however, are still hopeful that separate athletics between the consolidating schools will be implemented.
Sophomore Armstrong soccer player Casey Couch participated in both protests and lead the making of the anti-merge video.
“I came to Armstrong because of the small classroom size and to be able to connect with people on a personal level,” Couch said. “This is also seen in the athletic department. All of the coaches, staff, athletic trainers and directors know the athletes and support all of us…These people here only want the best for us and it’s completely unfair to watch it be taken away.”
The Frequently Asked Questions section of the consolidation website addresses that athletics is an aspect of the consolidation that has to be decided upon early in the process and that scholarships will be honored throughout the consolidation process.
“I think the news affected our team because everybody’s mind was focused on what’s going to happen with us,” junior liberal studies major and student athlete KJ James said. “We are still concerned because they haven’t really told us exactly when everything is going to take place as far as giving us another year or stopping athletics as a whole after this season.”
The impact on Armstrong’s roughly 260 faculty members and 350 staff members is also unclear at this time. USG officials released that a decrease in the number of positions will likely occur. Certain administrative functions will be combined, resulting in the need for fewer positions over time.
An institutional implementation committee will be formed, which will include representatives of faculty, staff and students. It is expected the majority of decisions will be made at the institutional level subject to final approval by the Board.
University System office staff will provide overall leadership to the implementation effort, but the campus committee will be identifying and recommending the resolutions for key issues. The committee will be formed and begin work immediately.
A Town Hall meeting will be held at Armstrong Thursday, Jan. 19, at 4:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Auditorium in an effort to answer questions and concerns regarding the GSU/ASU merge. Panelists will include Armstrong State University President Linda Bleicken, Georgia Southern President Jaimie Hebert, University System of Georgia Vice Chancellor for Organizational Effectiveness and University System of Georgia Executive Vice Chancellor for Strategy and Fiscal Affairs Shelley Nickel.
For those who cannot attend, the meeting will be livestreamed online at con- solidation.georgiasouthern. edu. Students, faculty, alumni and community members are all welcome and encouraged to attend.