It came as a shock at Southern Poly from the president on down as reflected in comments to the Marietta Daily Journal after Friday’s announcement of the plan. Chancellor Hank Huckaby of the University System of Georgia said he will ask approval by the Board of Regents in a couple of weeks with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2015.
The chancellor said the plan “offers us some exciting possibilities to enlarge our academic outreach through the existing talent and resources at both these institutions.” It remains to be seen how state officials can mix and stir an engineering and technology school with a liberal arts school that is focusing on nursing, business, information systems and education degrees.
The merged entity will be Kennesaw State University, and current KSU president Dr. Dan Papp will head the combined institution. He said most of the Southern Poly degree programs will be continued. He also said he believes there will be millions of dollars in savings from the merger, the largest yet in Georgia’s university system.
Southern Poly students and grads don’t like losing their identity in what essentially is a merger of their school into KSU. Their university’s name disappears and their president, Lisa Rossbacker, likely will exit the scene. After the announcement, she told students, “I was not consulted on this.” She learned of the plan only a day before it was announced. She’s been looking for another top university job, but it probably won’t be at KSU.
The SPSU faculty and staff are concerned about what happens to them. They won’t know for perhaps another year. And of course, the merger has to be formally approved by the regents. So it’s not surprising that University System spokesman John Millsaps said no decision has been made on what faculty positions would be considered repetitive, or overlapping, and thus no longer needed. But if costs are to be cut, the first place to look will no doubt be the source of most expenses, faculty. In confirming that office staff will be cut to reduce expenses, Dr. Papp promised to look at all positions and “handle any cuts with the greatest sensitivity possible.”
It surely will be a tough challenge to figure out a workable solution to combining the two universities. It seems that the most difficult part will be to maintain the status of the engineering and technology programs in the merged institution, but maybe state officials have a plan for that. Maybe they will even come up with a way keep the essence of the SPSU name, for example the Southern Polytechnic School of Engineering and Technology at Kennesaw State University or something similar that at least preserves a link to the Southern Poly that was.
Regardless of how it’s done, it’s a sad thing to lose your university.