Regents unanimous in approving merger
by Rachel Gray
November 12, 2013 11:00 PM | 5727 views | 23 23 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Ayana Reyes, 21, a sophomore architect major at SPSU, gets as vocal as she can before Tuesday’s protest of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia meeting. Reyes and her fellow students’ hopes of a change of heart by the regents were dashed when the panel voted unanimously to approve a merger between Southern Polytechnic and Kennesaw State University.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Ayana Reyes, 21, a sophomore architect major at SPSU, gets as vocal as she can before Tuesday’s protest of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia meeting. Reyes and her fellow students’ hopes of a change of heart by the regents were dashed when the panel voted unanimously to approve a merger between Southern Polytechnic and Kennesaw State University.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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MARIETTA — More than 50 students protesting in downtown Atlanta wondered if their voices were even heard after a unanimous vote Tuesday afternoon to merge Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University.

Less than a minute after the State Board of Regents approved a plan to consolidate the two colleges, a news release was handed out to describe the next steps to be taken.

The merger requires consent by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in December before the Board of Regents finalizes the merger in January.

The rush for a vote had many SPSU students questioning if the approval had already been decided before Tuesday’s meeting.

Three representatives of SPSU alumni and students, who addressed the Board of Regents before the vote, said the board had not done its homework to prove the case for a merger.

Austin Clayton, president of the SPSU Student Government Association, said there has been no data on how the merger will benefit the SPSU campus, metro Atlanta or Georgia, or any indication that possible negative consequences have been researched.

“We want to know why, and we want to know how,” Clayton said.

Clayton said the SPSU representatives did not want to dissolve the merger entirely, but asked the board to step back and create a research team.

Kessel Stelling Jr., the board’s representative for Cobb County, was absent from Tuesday’s vote. Stelling has not returned calls to the Marietta Daily Journal since news of the merger broke earlier this month.

Stelling served as chairman of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce in 1998 and 2006, and is a Trustee of Kennesaw State University.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, the Board of Regents received a letter from the Cobb Chamber of Commerce offering its ringing endorsement of the merger.

Opposition takes stand

The crowd of SPSU protestors were bused from campus by the Poly Trolley to the University System offices, a block away from the Georgia State Capitol.

Cars driving past the Keep SPSU True Group on Washington Street honked horns in support of the students holding signs and chanting slogans in matching t-shirts.

By Tuesday afternoon, the Keep SPSU True Group had 8,000 signatures on a petition opposing the merger plan.

Some of the protesting students said they were skipping class Tuesday afternoon, but many said their professors had rescheduled meeting times and tests to allow them to participate in the protests in Atlanta.

Sean Magee, 26, who will receive an SPSU degree in technical communications before the merger is complete, said he came to support those faculty members who have shaped his education and provided him an opportunity for a good career.

“They may not be able to be here, but they have helped a large amount,” Magee said.

Magee said he is worried who will decide which jobs, and whose positions, at SPSU are unnecessary, and if KSU staff will be favored over SPSU’s in the consolidation.

University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby will form an implementation team with representatives from both institutions to work out the details and submit the documents required for accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges.

The implementation team will be headed by KSU President Dan Papp, who will serve as president of the consolidated university.

The gains and the losses

The merger decision was alarming, especially for a student body trained to analyze objective data to solve problems, said Joe Thomas, 27, a professional communications student at SPSU.

“I am a pretty strong proponent of open government and transparency,” said Thomas, who added that the Board of Regents’ agenda was thrust upon the SPSU student body and faculty.

Associate Vice Chancellor Shelley Nickel has led the consolidation of eight USG institutions into four in an effort to reduce administrative costs and relieve some of the burden on state funding of higher education.

On Tuesday, Nickel presented to the board a list of opportunities with the consolidation, including a wider array of student activities, as well as combining resources for regional economic and community development needs.

None of the previous USG mergers have been in metro Atlanta. KSU is in unincorporated Cobb County near Kennesaw off Interstate 75. Ten miles away is SPSU in Marietta south of the 120 Loop.

“We are not recommending closing any part of either campus,” Nickel told the board. But when asked about class sizes increasing, she added, “No decisions have been made about anything.”

The only challenge listed in Nickel’s presentation was blending the cultures of the two institutions. But Nickel said both SPSU and KSU have a history of changing and evolving separately.

Kennesaw State University, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in October, is the third-largest university in the University System of Georgia.

The fall 2013 enrollment of KSU and SPSU combined is 31,178 students, just shy of Georgia State University’s 32,087 enrollment number.

But Thomas said there needs to be a variety of options for high education, including schools for people who do not want a large university experience.

Enrollment at Southern Polytechnic State University, which was founded 65 years ago to focus on the practical application of science, engineering and technology, is just above 6,500 students.

The board’s reasons

Eric Cooney Jr., coordinator of the Keep SPSU True Group, was the first to address the board Tuesday afternoon.

Cooney, a senior in technical communications, said he could not leave SPSU and graduate next year “in good conscience without speaking out.”

The students of SPSU are high academic performers who have a range of options for higher education, Cooney told the board. SPSU is a unique college desired by students and faculty, but it would disappear with a merger.

“We refuse to blindly accept such a risk,” said Cooney, who wanted a reasoned argument about why the merger is necessary. “We have only heard this is happening and that is it.”

Nickel told the board the merger will consolidate administrative functions and personnel positions, including updating faculty contracts, as well as aligning tenure and promotion processes.

For students, the consolidation will combine information systems and athletic programs, as well as streamline academic programs offered, according to Nickel’s presentation.

“This is a decision that will strengthen both institutions” Board Chairman Dink NeSmith said.

Trent Anderson, who recently graduated from SPSU with a degree in construction management, told the board that KSU has graduated fine business leaders, educators and nurses. He added, SPSU has graduated innovators in manufacturing and engineering industries.

Both schools are exceptional, and merging them together would turn two distinct schools into one “ordinary” college, Anderson said.

The original plan would have the merged schools operate under the Kennesaw State University name by the 2015 fall semester.

Nickel said there is a chance for flexibility on what the diplomas will read at the end of 2015, when the first students graduate as a combined university.

Multiple board members asked that the plan include some effort to retain part of the SPSU name.

Protestors like Tyler Rowan, 21, an electrical engineering student who will graduate in the spring of 2015, is worried his degree will be “watered down” with the KSU name.

Rowan said eliminating the SPSU name disrespects his applied engineering degree from a school that should be a point of pride for Georgians.

Comments
(23)
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Porschephile911
|
November 13, 2013
Governor Nathan Deal and the BOR apparently took a page from the playbook of those who contrived obamacare. They might have a similar result on their hands.

The question has been brought up as to why SPSU’s name was not incorporated in some form into the mega school’s name. One reason could be is that once SPSU is merged with KSU, further changes will be on the horizon. The importance of what are now SPSU’s degree programs could be marginalized to the point of disappearing. Otherwise, why would the BOR rush through this boondoggle under the cover of darkness and no one claiming knowledge of how this will done. The reason being “cost savings” is as thin as the act itself.

This would leave three state engineering schools. UGA engineering will never move beyond GT as long as each maintains its current status. However, with its influence and money, it could quickly surpass its next biggest engineering competitor, SPSU. It could be we have just witnessed this. There’s some sand in the slide rule.

SPSU is now one of a few universities categorized as being a “polytechnic.” These are schools that specialize in and concentrate on engineering, technology, and science. Wikipedia’s link- polytechnic universities in the United States

It is of interest that many states now are dedicating campuses of existing universities as polytechnic campuses. These are stand-alone entities, thus allowing a focused effort on their technological mission. Among these are the university systems of Florida, Wisconsin, California. Why are they moving in this direction and the USG is moving away from it?

To SPSU current and potential students- be aware of what you see happening to your engineering, technology, or architecture program under the suzerainty of KSU. It just might fade into oblivion before your eyes.

larb13
|
November 16, 2013
SPUS IT will go to the KSU School of business as Information Systems.

SPSU CS will become part of the KSU Sciences Department.

SPSU Software Engineering will become part of the business information systems department.

SPSU Game Design will be considered an Arts Degree and focus less on programming. Welcome to the school of Arts.

all of this is rumor but I have heard this from several KSU students whose professors told them this.
MIT of the South?
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November 13, 2013
I'm confused about all of the anger and attitude from Southern Tech students. You would think from the outrage that the move was going to hurt the reputation of Southern Tech until you start to look at numbers. According to US News and World Report:

Tuition: ST= $6810 per year KSU= $6807 per year

Acceptance Rate: ST= 79% KSU= $56.5%

Graduation Rate: ST= 7% KSU= 14%

Student/Teacher ratio ST= 19/1 KSU= 21/1

Rank among southern regional schools:

ST= #89 KSU= #69

Apparently the move will actually boost the opinion of graduates rather than drop them. What is your problem folks? It's Southern Tech after all. You will most definitely be more respected as a graduate of the Southern Technical School of Kennesaw State University.
Lisa at SPSU
|
November 13, 2013
We are not Southern Tech anymore. The correct name is Southern Polytechnic State University. Give us at least that dignity for another 13 months.
informer53701
|
November 16, 2013
Where did you get those figures from the KSU toilet side chronicles.
Porschephile911
|
November 18, 2013
MIT of the South forget a couple of statistics-

1. Percentage of new SPSU graduates going to work in their field vs. a KSU graduate

2. Starting salaries, thus income tax generation, of a KSU vs. SPSU graduate

3. Lifetime earning potential

This might seem like an unseemly comparison. However, the BOR is pushing the merger supposedly to save dollars. A dubious prediction, at best.
Dave Z
|
November 13, 2013
OF COURSE it had been decided before the vote. It had been decided before it was even announced to the public.
Shellshocked
|
November 13, 2013
I enrolled at SPSU to pursue a 2nd engineering degree. The first one I obtained was from a college even smaller than SPSU. I therefore have a special appreciation as a current student for the access to professors, and the engaging atmosphere, that a small school provides.

SPSU has been an outstanding institution, with caring faculty, whose jobs should not be put at risk. It has been successful on its own, attaining its own increase in programs and students, and should not have been targeted for any merger with anyone.

That not a single member of the Board of Regents could see that the Board stood to eliminate educational diversity in Georgia is disconcerting and disappointing, and makes me wonder whether it entertained presentations by SPSU students for valid reasons, or instead for mere political cover.

We STILL do not have definitive answers as to why the Board did what it did, or as to how any perceived benefits would outweigh the costs of eliminating a successful 60-year engineering school. This "black box" decision was made and announced without first obtaining any input from SPSU students, regardless of yesterday's presentations. Unfortunately, this is but one example of what can happen when unelected bureaucrats act to change people's lives, and not for the better. God help all of us.

Porschephile911
|
November 13, 2013
Governor Nathan Deal and the BOR apparently took a page from the playbook of those who contrived obamacare. They might have a similar result on their hands.

The question has been brought up as to why SPSU’s name was not incorporated in some form into the mega school’s name. One reason could be is that once SPSU is merged with KSU, further changes will be on the horizon. The importance of what are now SPSU’s degree programs could be marginalized to the point of disappearing. Otherwise, why would the BOR rush through this boondoggle under the cover of darkness and no one claiming knowledge of how this will done. The reason being “cost savings”

is as thin as the act itself.

This would leave three state engineering schools. UGA engineering will never move beyond GT as long as each maintains its current status. However, with its influence and money, it could quickly surpass its next biggest engineering competitor, SPSU. It could be we have just witnessed this. There’s some sand in the slide rule.

SPSU is now one of a few universities categorized as being a “polytechnic.” These are schools that specialize in and concentrate on engineering, technology, and science. Wikipedia’s link- Polytechnic Universities in the United States

It is of interest that many states now are dedicating campuses of existing universities as polytechnic campuses. These are stand-alone entities, thus allowing a focused effort on their technological mission. Among these are the university systems of Florida, Wisconsin, California. Why are they moving in this direction and the USG is moving away from it?

To SPSU current and potential students- be aware of what you see happening to your engineering, technology, or architecture program under the suzerainty of KSU. It just might fade into oblivion before your eyes.

unsurprised
|
November 13, 2013
I'm sorry SPSU has been treated this way. KSU students, faculty, staff had nothing to do with this so please don't attack them. I'm unsurprised that the vote for "merger" was unanimous. I'm sure the decision was already a done deal before it was ever announced. I also agree that the most sensible merger if the merging is for reasons stated - proximity & cost savings - would be Georgia State & Georgia Tech who are practically beside each other rather than schools separated by 10 miles.
ScrappyOwl
|
November 13, 2013
All us KSU alumni are getting a good laugh at all of this. We always called it Big Chicken Technical School.
your checkbook
|
November 13, 2013
Dear students, your checkbook is the only avenue for protest that could possibly ever make any difference.

If you are unhappy with your school's direction, write your checks to a different school.

If the students all leave, SPSU won't stay open, but the stated goal of preventing merger with KSU will have been achieved.

Transfer today!
ECP
|
November 12, 2013
Why is Papp the President? Why not the current President at SPSU? It's clear that Papp pushed for this, as he will be earning more. You did well KSU admin. Boot out the faculty and admin at SPSU, so that you can satisfy your egos and wallets.
Retiree1
|
November 13, 2013
The current President of SPSU has made in known for at least the last 2 years that she wants to "move on" to another school, and has applied, and been in the running, for top posts at several out-of-state schools. Why would or should the BOR retain her when she has clearly indicated she wants a change??
PersistentSPSUStuden
|
November 12, 2013
We. Are. Not. Finished.

Thank you.
All Done
|
November 13, 2013
Yes you are. You are not an owl. Hoot all you want about it but you will remain an owl.
SPSU Grad
|
November 12, 2013
Unfortunately this decision has absolutely nothing to do with what's best for the students or schools involved and EVERYTHING to do with politics. The entire process has been handled very poorly by the Board of Regents and kept completely secretive until a little more than a week prior to the vote... with absolutely no input from the SPSU community. It's sad how the ignorance of the politically appointed members of the Board of Regents can ruin a fine institution with such a decision.
Just Sayin'....
|
November 12, 2013
Well said Mr. Galt with regards to the insults hurled at KSU and the students there. It is not the school of decades ago. It is a full fledged and respected university and will eventually be the largest university in the state of Georgia.
in other words
|
November 12, 2013
In other words the Board of Regents has successfully done away with a school that Cobb County has been proud to call its own. I think of the men and women who were instrumental in bringing this engineering institution to us and I know the living are disappointed, and the dead are whirling in their graves. Just another example of "the government" knowing what is best. Heaven help us. And would someone please tell those worthies who did this that liberal arts and engineering courses just simply don't mix.
John Galt
|
November 12, 2013
I know SPSU community is not happy about this and neither am I. However - I don't think the KSU student body deserves to be insulted. They had nothing to do with this. Many of my good friends are KSU students and alumni. However - KSU community should at least try to understand why we are angry. I think you would be to if the identity of your school is disappearing. As for all the UGA and GA Tech people who continue to spout off about it: we could care less what you think or have to say about it.
ksu doesnt get it
|
November 13, 2013
KSU students don't understand what a school identity is, as KSU never formed a new identity after working so hard to outgrow "where the strippers go." I will agree KSU is no longer just the school where the strippers go, but what exactly is their identity? I assert they have no identity!
Confused23
|
November 12, 2013
Are these dates right? 2015?

This action will be implemented over the next year, with final board approval of the new institution coming in January 2015, following the approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools at its December 2014 meeting.

LittleOwl
|
November 13, 2013
Yes, the dates are correct. The presentation to the board yesterday outlined the consolidation process. Yesterday, the Regents approved that the consolidation should happen. Now the process begins. The presentation outlined the time line in conjunction with the SACS approval process. The first cohort of the new school is Fall 2015.
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