On the afternoon of Nov. 1, 2013 students gathered outside of the student center to ask Lisa Rossbacher, who has been SPSU’s president since 1998, for guidance on how to list SPSU on resumes and what the school will be named on future degrees.
Besides some helpful advice, Rossbacher told the crowd of students, “I was not consulted on this, I found out yesterday.”
Those shocked students, full of questions, took to the streets two weeks later as more than 50 people protested in downtown Atlanta. The Keep SPSU True Group arrived with 8,000 signatures on a petition opposing the merger. That’s more than the entire student body of 6,500 at SPSU.
But their concerns did not sway the State Board of Regents, which on Nov. 12 voted unanimously to start planning the consolidation.
Synovus CEO Kessel Stelling of east Cobb, who represents Cobb on the Board of Regents, did not attend the voting session.
Stelling, a former Cobb Chamber of Commerce chairman, is a Trustee of Kennesaw State.
Prior to the vote, the Board of Regents received a letter from the Cobb Chamber of Commerce offering its ringing endorsement of the merger.
Following a signoff by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools at its December 2014 meeting, the Board of Regents will vote to approve the merger in January 2015.
The merged schools would then begin to operate under the Kennesaw State University name by the 2015 fall semester.
So far, there has been a consolidation of eight University System of Georgia institutions into four in an effort to reduce administrative costs and relieve some of the burden on state funding of higher education.
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.
Enrollment at Southern Polytechnic State University, which was founded 65 years ago to focus on the practical application of science, engineering and technology, had just more than 6,500 students enrolled this fall, an increase of about 5.6 percent over the previous year.
On Nov. 21, USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby formed an implementation team with 26 representatives from both institutions, which will be headed by KSU President Dan Papp, who will serve as president of the consolidated university.
At the Nov. 12 Board of Regents meeting, a presentation said the plan will merge administrative functions and personnel positions, including updating faculty contracts, as well as aligning tenure and promotion processes.
For students, information systems and athletic programs will be combined, and academic programs will be offered.
Existing programs to stay at SPSU campus
Ron Dempsey, vice president of advancement for SPSU, told a small group with the Cobb Chamber of Commerce that existing programs taught on the SPSU campus will remain at that campus because the labs and computer systems housed at SPSU would be too expensive to duplicate at KSU’s location.
Dempsey said he feels confident that within the consolidated KSU, there will be the Southern Polytechnic School of Engineering and Technology.
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.