Political Notes — UGA moving to a whiter, less-diverse student body


State legislators have tried for several years to pass bills that would require the University System to expel undocumented students attending one of Georgia’s public colleges.

The efforts of lawmakers like Rep. Tom Rice (R-Norcross), Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) and Sen. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville) have fallen short, leaving in place a Board of Regents policy that allows undocumented students to attend college if they pay out-of-state tuition rates.

Despite the failures of these immigration bills, however, the number of Latinos and other non-caucasian students at one of the state’s flagship universities is starting to drop.

Figures released this week by the University of Georgia show that there are fewer black and Latino students in this fall’s incoming class than there were last year, both in total numbers and percentages.

In the fall of 2011, according to UGA’s numbers, the first-year students included 480 African-Americans (8.7 percent of the class) and 300 Hispanic students (5.4 percent of the class).

For the class that will be entering UGA this fall, the number of African-American students has decreased to 360 (7.3 percent of the class) while the number of Hispanic first-year students has dropped to 250 (5.1 percent of the class).

University officials note that the total number of first-year students was larger in 2011 – a record 5,500 students, compared to 4,970 in this year’s incoming class.

They still don’t like the new name

The backlash in Augusta to the Board of Regents’ decision this week to rename a local college as “Georgia Regents University” continues to build.

From the latest report by Tom Corwin in the Augusta Chronicle:

The reaction to the name Georgia Regents University in Augusta was visceral and immediate, and protest efforts continued Wednesday against the name for the consolidated Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities.

To a GHSU official, the response shows concern and passion about the universities, which can become a good thing.

A Facebook page titled “Everyone Against ‘Georgia Regents University’ Sound Off,” started by Chris Blanco, had been “liked” more than 2,700 times. His friend Chris Nabholz had similar success with a Facebook page protesting the name before the vote.

“I honestly thought that would change things before the vote,” said Nabholz, a junior at ASU. “The Board of Regents just kind of brushed us off their shoulders.”

With the continued reaction, however, the two men are trying to bring together a community that seems to have coalesced around near-universal rejection of the name.

“I just feel like no one in Augusta had a say,” said Blanco, a 2010 graduate of ASU.

His Facebook page is urging people to contact GHSU President Ricardo Azziz, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.

The Board of Regents voted Tuesday to approve “Georgia Regents University,” which was one of three names suggested by a local committee that worked on the nomenclature project (the other two names on the final list were the University of Augusta and Georgia Arts and Sciences University).

Before taking the vote, board member Robert Hatcher asked Azziz to confirm that “we’re not naming this for ourselves.”

“No, the regents did not have any input in creating the name,” Azziz said.

Why the Sierra Club did it

One of the more interesting aspects of the successful campaign to defeat the T-SPLOST transportation tax in Metro Atlanta was the teaming up of conservative groups like the Tea Party Patriots with more liberal organizations like the Sierra Club.

Colleen Kiernan, director of the Sierra Club’s Georgia Chapter, offered this explanation for her group’s opposition to T-SPLOST in a recent email:

The Georgia Chapter began seriously discussing our position on the referendum in March. At the time, the pro-T-SPLOST campaign was beginning to take shape, and it was becoming evident that the campaign would focus overwhelmingly on suburban, conservative voters, a losing strategy in our view. The conclusion of the Chapter’s political leadership was that chances of passage in the Atlanta region were extremely slim, with or without the support of Sierra Club.

At the same time, opposition to the T-SPLOST was beginning to crystallize. Much of the early opposition focused on the transit component of the project list; the road spending, despite being just as substantial, was largely receiving a free pass. With various other environmental / pro-transit groups lining up in favor of the tax, we sensed that the emerging narrative of the vote as a “referendum on transit” could be very dangerous given the likelihood that the referendum would fail. Opposition was seen as a way to reframe the debate and to shift the conversation toward discussion of alternative options that would need to be considered going forward. With these considerations in mind, the RAIL committee recommended the option of opposing the referendum with an emphasis on supporting “Plan B.”

Our thorough and well-researched position paper elevated the level of debate about transportation issues across the region. Now, the primary message coming out of the election is that voters didn’t trust the government. While we recognize that the Governor is not an ally on transit, we did prevent $4 billion in additional road spending that would have worsened sprawl and pollution, and now have the opportunity to fix the things that are broken, restore trust, and lay the groundwork for a viable rail expansion program.

Yet another new city?

Bill Byrne, who’s involved in a runoff election with Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee, is proposing the creation of another new municipality in Atlanta’s suburbs.

As reported by the Marietta Daily Journal, Byrne envisions a city of East Cobb:

Under the proposal, which Byrne made Wednesday, the county government would continue to provide water, sewer, police and fire services to the new city for a nominal fee of one dollar per year.

The proposed city would be governed by an elected mayor and five City Council members, with wards drawn by the Cobb Delegation.

Byrne said the county government would provide $1 million from its capital improvements budget for the design and construction of a city hall and provide temporary meeting locations until construction is complete. The design, construction and location of the new city hall would be determined by the new mayor and city council, he said.

“East Cobb County has always been the fulcrum around the growth for all of Cobb County,” Byrne said. “It’s the biggest success story of the county for the last 20 years, and will be for a long time to come.”

Byrne said he’s watched with interest as cities in Fulton County across the river have formed, along with Brookhaven, DeKalb’s newest city.

“East Cobb has always been enormously involved in the decision-making process, particularly with regard to infrastructure and zonings,” he said. “Once the market comes back, it’s going to start in east Cobb, so I thought that this was a very good time and timing to energize a discussion to create the city of east Cobb and allow the people there to say yes or no to it.”

New member for Jekyll oversight committee

House Speaker David Ralston has appointed Rep. Jon Burns (R-Newington) to the Jekyll Island-State Park Authority Oversight Committee. Burns replaces Roger Lane, who resigned from the House of Representatives to accept a judgeship appointment.

Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming), who was already a member of the oversight committee, will become the chairman, a post also held by Lane.

© 2012 by The Georgia Report


Tags: Bill Byrne , black students , Board of Regents , Cobb County , Colleen Kiernan , Georgia Regents University , Jekyll Island , Jon Burns , Latino students , Mark Hamilton , new city , Sierra Club , T-SPLOST , university of georgia