January 31, 2009
Name and identity ... identity and name. It''s like the chicken and the egg -- which comes first?
Mississippi University for Women has lived through both sequences -- name first and then identity, and now identity first and then name.
Since its founding in 1884, the university has evolved through three names. The first, Industrial Institute and College, emphasized the college''s dual mission as a liberal arts college and a vocational school.
The next name, selected in 1920, was Mississippi State College for Women. MSCW quickly became shortened to the now legendary nickname, "The W." In 1974, the nickname was carried along as MSCW became Mississippi University for Women.
But MUW''s status as a college for "women only" came to an end in 1982 with the court-ordered admission of its first male student. In recent years, the student body has averaged about 20 percent men.
To acknowledge The W''s changing identity, a concerted effort is now under way to choose a new name. Just as the school''s role in the state''s higher education system has changed, it is inevitable that a fourth name is now needed. A committee has pared the list to three -- Reneau University, Welty-Reneau University and Waverley University.
There also is an unspoken sense that something entirely different could emerge as the final choice. If that should happen, we strongly oppose any name with geographic references, such as Golden Triangle University or Such-and-Such University at Columbus.
Ironically, Waverley University, although a "W" name, has no connection to women nor to the university''s history. It is a nod to Sir Walter Scott''s novel, "Waverley." Although the book has laudable themes, this name has no link to the university and should be rejected.
On the other hand, the other two committee-selected names, Reneau University and Welty-Reneau University, connect with The W''s history and its tradition of enriching the lives of women.
Reneau is for Sallie Reneau, who was the college''s initial champion, so naming the university for her makes sense.
Welty is for Eudora Welty, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who began her college career at The W. Although Welty went on to graduate elsewhere, she attended many functions at MUW in her later years, and the school''s administrative office building, Welty Hall, is named for her.
Identity and name are part and parcel of each other, particularly when it comes to a college so dear to the hearts of generations of graduates. To the female alums who would rather keep MUW''s name as it is, we strongly remind them of the inevitability of the change and the need for the university to have a name in keeping with its evolving identity. The alums need to think of the best interests of their alma mater, put aside other agendas and help the school pick the best possible new name.
That name should reflect the school''s history as the first public college for women in the country. Either Reneau University or Welty-Reneau University (if we wish to keep a "W" in the name) achieves those goals.
Besides, both names impart an air of prestige and simply sound like a liberal arts college, which is what our university has always been and should always be.
TONDRA GORE commented at 2/5/2009 2:44:00 PM:
Let MUW stay as is because there is no need to change the name. A few years back it was MSCW, now it is MUW so let it stay, too much hassle of changing names. Wasting taxpayers money could be saved and time cut in half if you all would let it alone.
Jeremy commented at 2/6/2009 12:37:00 AM:
Changing the name DOES make sense. If people would read the statistics, they would find that a small percent of female highscool students looking for a college choose a college because it is a women's college. On the other hand, a much greater percentage of male highschool students looking for a college will not consider going to a college because it is a women's college. If the school is to survive and grow, it has to change its name to appeal to both men and women. I personally like the idea of Welty-Reneau University so it can keep the nickname the "W".
Male MUW Alumni commented at 2/8/2009 9:22:00 PM:
I am a twice alumn of MUW, I have a bachelors and a masters from there and I am a male. Everyone is looking for a quick fix and changing the name is not going to attract more students there as changing the tile on the floor would. First off, with a new name change, the university still would have the stiga of being the college formerly known as Mississippi University for Women... a college for women.... so the impact that everyone hopes a name change will create won't realistically be felt until 15 or more years down the road when the stiga of it beign a women's college has time to wear off.... other issues should be addressed that would make a more sudden impact such as course/degree offerings and student life issues.
Tammy Dobbs commented at 2/11/2009 8:07:00 PM:
I am an W alumni and Columbus native. I've lived all over the United States with my husband in the military. The name MUW is widely known and very well respected. I think a name with that distinction should be kept. Employers know the quality of students coming out of the W. In the beginning, it was a women's college. That is still very attractive to lots of young women today. I have twin daughters who may want to go there one day. I will enourage them if the name is kept because of the heritage and tradition that is there. If the name is changed, then it's not special anymore. It's just another college. There are thousands of those out there. MUW is special! Let's keep it that way.
Casey commented at 2/12/2009 3:00:00 AM:
How does a name change make the college any less special? It's still the same college. If one of your daughters decides to change her name one day, does that make her any less "special"?
Diana commented at 2/13/2009 11:40:00 PM:
Changing the name of the university will certainly not be a quick fix for all of its problems. But then, I don't think anyone realistically expects it to fix every problem in existence, even Dr. Limbert. Changing the name does, however, reflect that in 1982 the status of the university changed when it began providing education for men as well as women. The name changes in the past have been for the same reasons-to reflect strengthening and changing of the university, first to college and later to university status. Those changes in no way destroyed the history of the university or its integrity-they solidified the W's growth and renewed focus. As women, we cannot hope to achieve equality with men if we deny them equal footing in our own institutions. If we attempt to do so, we are hypocrites and our efforts become laughable. It is long past time to change the name to reflect what the W's main goal should be-providing equally good educations to both men and women.
Ms. G commented at 2/16/2009 10:35:00 PM:
A new name for the W? Let's call it "Teapot"! As in "tempest in a teapot". Is anyone else tired of hearing about the "tempests" brewing there? (It's a great school,whatever the name.)
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