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Armstrong State University holds town hall regarding merger

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Armstrong State University holds town hall regarding merger. (Credit: Shelbey Roberts)

The University System of Georgia has decided to consolidate Armstrong State University and Georgia Southern University. Not everyone is happy.

During Thursday's town hall meeting at Armstrong, students and faculty weren't shy about sharing their feelings. Some of them even let out audible "boo's".

""I feel really, I feel betrayed," said Armstrong freshman, Tara Vankleef. "We were more informed of the decision rather than our view taken into account...we feel like we don't have a voice at all."

The man who might be feeling a lot of the pressure is Georgia Southern president, Dr. Jaimie Hebert. He'll be leading the newly consolidated schools.

When asked if he felt like he had been tossed in the lion's den, Hebert responded, "No, I didn't...we're amongst a lot of like minds who are going through some common change."

Armstrong president Dr. Linda Bleicken admitted many of the transitional logistics of the consolidation are still in the works.

"I know that this time since the announcement...has been difficult. It's been difficult for everyone," Bleicken said.

But the lack of answers regarding the school's new name, the future of athletics and other concerns is adding to frustrations.

Armstrong freshman, Carter Register, said he felt used.

"There were a lot of reasons I chose to come here and for that to all, you know, suddenly just go away without any of my input feels like, I just feel really taken advantage of."

Armstrong student-athletes remain uncertain about their futures as Pirates.

Bleicken said the school will honor student-athlete scholarships. But there's no word yet on if the athletic campuses will move to Statesboro or if the coaching staff will be on the chopping block. Athletes like softball player, Hannah Reppert, are speaking out.

"In the back of [athletes'] mind[s] they can't help but worry about it; to know like our whole world is about to be flipped upside down and where the heck are we going to be next year?"

Hebert says he empathizes with Armstrong students.

"Focus on the human condition. Allowing people to verbalize their feelings, their emotions, I think is a very good start," he said.

There is currently a consolidation implementation committee in the works. It will include 20 people from Georgia Southern and 20 people from Armstrong to help figure out how the consolidation will work.