Regents postpone UGA decision

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents voted on Tuesday, Oct. 12 to postpone any action regarding a possible engineering school at UGA. The proposal in front of the board was to allow UGA to begin offering undergraduate degrees in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering.

The vote followed Gov. Sonny Perdue’s address to the Board of Regents, in which he warned that the university system should not launch an engineering program at UGA without careful consideration of possible negative effects or an attempt to gain public approval. Perdue urged the board to slow down their considerations and build support first.

“Take a deep breath, relax, slow down and work diligently to win support,” said Perdue to members of the university system of Georgia Board of Regents.

Perdue accused the Board of Regents of running the proposal through quickly without consulting the governor’s office, and expressed concerns about how the current financial state of the system could be negatively affected by the installation of an engineering program at UGA.

“Even if this new school at UGA did make sense, I would be hard pressed to believe this is the right timing. We are in an economically-constrained situation. When you see these new budgets – where stimulus has disappeared and where program enrollments continue to grow – you are going to see just how constrained things are,” Perdue said.

Perdue told the regents to think with an “enterprise” mindset and represent the interests of the entire state of Georgia, not their respective areas or institutions.

The first regent to express an opinion following Perdue’s address was Dink Nesmith, who spoke in favor of the UGA Engineering proposal.

“Let us put on our asbestos boots and walk over the hot coals to vote yes,” Nesmith said. He also said any further study would simply be “paralysis by analysis.”

Following Nesmith’s comments, regent Larry Walker motioned to table the proposal until November. Regent Fred Cooper seconded Walker’s motion.

“It would not be good for the board to fly in the face of the sitting governor,” said Cooper.

Regent Ben Tarbutton spoke out against the proposal with a list of concerns including a lack of thorough investigation to determine the timeliness of the proposal.

Finally, regent Richard Tucker spoke out against the postponement, accusing one unnamed institution of getting “outside consultants to fight UGA.”

At the final vote, only two regents voted against tabling the issue, regent Tucker and regent Tarbutton.

When asked his opinion on the issue, Institute President G. P. “Bud” Peterson said, “We certainly take a great deal of pride in our engineering programs here at Georgia Tech. Whatever the outcome, we will respect the decision of the Board of Regents. We will continue to work with all institutions in the state as well as our state leaders to ensure that we are able to serve the people of Georgia while providing the best possible education for our students.”