If the facts appear to be inconvenient, use something else.
This appears to the motto of Georgia Regents University President Ricardo Azziz, who again displayed his disdain for our community when he stood before the state Board of Regents this week and portrayed Augusta as a stagnant backwater where his new university cannot thrive.
No, Azziz did not use those words, but that is the implication he made with the words he did choose.
“The population of Augusta has decreased by 10 percent,” he said at the Wednesday meeting. “The reality is there are major changes in demographics in the state of Georgia, and we as a university are the only comprehensive university that does not have a campus or a place in Atlanta. And that is where the students are.”
Azziz was trying to make the case that people are fleeing Augusta for Atlanta and North Georgia, therefore GRU must follow the people or perish.
The problem with his assertion, however, is that it is patently false.
Let’s consider the numbers.
U.S. Census data show Richmond County grew by 10,830 residents from 1990 to 2010, an increase of about 6 percent.
During the same period, the Augusta-Aiken metropolitan area increased from 435,799 residents in 1990 to 556,877 in 2010, a 28 percent increase.
Here in Columbia County, we grew from 89,288 residents in 2000 to 124,051 in 2010, an increase of 39 percent.
So, however you look at it, this is not a “decrease.” It seems that as Azziz casts his eyes longing toward the gleaming spires of Atlanta, he has overlooked the teeming growth in his backyard.
Although Azziz has not attempted to clarify his glaring error, his spokespeople have tried to explain it away as a mistake he made while trying to compare the rates of growth between Augusta and the Atlanta area.
But was it merely a mistake or an intentional fudging of the figures to fit his agenda?
Was it ignorance?
Are we to believe that that the president of the state’s fourth largest university, a man who has lived here since 2010 and who has a staff to research at his behest, is not familiar with the local rate of population change?
How does he persuade new physicians, scientists, professors, technologists and the many other professionals his organization recruits every day, to come to this place where apparently, nothing is happening?
Maybe they get a different set of facts for that recruitment process.
Perhaps we could give him the benefit of the doubt if we had not seen this before.
It is instructive to recall what happened when the name of Georgia Regents University was selected. You may remember that about $45,000 was spent on a national survey weighing several suggested names.
The survey results overwhelming favored names that included the word “Augusta.”
Azziz was not happy with that. He thought it would hamper his vision for nationally recognized university.
So, the results were ignored, and he lobbied the Board of Regents for the name that finally got approved.
Sure, that’s ancient history, but it is a history lesson worth remembering.
It’s clear the Azziz wants a statewide presence for his university and a bigger stage for his personal ambitions. He has a message to sell, but we’re not buying it.