It’s a public relations fiasco created by the very people who oversee the universities and colleges that teach students in their mass communications/PR classes to never do what the regents did in this case.
The operative word is “communications.” That has been almost non-existent as far as the regents are concerned except for the terse announcement that the merger was planned and comments by Regent C. Dean Alford of Conyers voicing empathy for the shocked and indignant Southern Poly students bent on reversing the decision and saving their school.
There are so many questions, who knows where to begin? First, the rationale for combining the two universities is lacking except for vague statements about cost savings that might be in the millions, but might not. Who knows? Second, the “how” has not even been discussed. Neither has the question of what happens to the SPSU campus. Is it retained or sold and all classes moved to KSU, if that’s even possible? Who knows?
Coincidentally, enrollment is booming at the University of Georgia’s brand new College of Engineering, launched in July 2012. Its dean, Donald Leo, spoke Wednesday at the first meeting of the Athens chapter of the Technology Association of Georgia. Leo said undergraduate enrollment in the engineering college increased nearly 50 percent from last fall to this year and now stands at about 920 students. He expects enrollment will reach about 1,500 in the next two years — and 10 to 12 new faculty members will be added.
The UGA engineering dean said justification for creating the college was based in part on meeting an unmet demand for engineers in Georgia, the Athens Banner-Herald reported. UGA already offered majors in a range of related programs ranging from agricultural and biological to environmental and computer systems engineering. Civil engineering was added last fall, followed by mechanical and electrical engineering majors this year — and that’s where most of the enrollment growth has come.
So Georgia has an unmet demand for engineers? And merging Southern Poly, an engineering school, into Kennesaw State, a liberal arts school, is supposed to help meet the demand for engineers? Something is missing here. In any event, it’s one thing to create a new engineering school, as is the case at UGA, but it’s an entirely different matter to dissolve an existing university — with good credentials and a strong track record by its graduates — into another, differently oriented university.
How many times has this been done? When and where? And how did it work? These are more questions that need to be answered by the uncommunicative Board of Regents. The students, faculty, parents and other stakeholders of Southern Polytechnic State University deserve some answers — sooner, not later.