Article Comment 

Our opinion: At The W, a bitter conflict resolved




It was Columbus'' own Israel and Palestine. It was Northern Ireland, the Balkans, and East and West Germany all rolled into one. 


We say that not to trivialize those conflicts, but to help those of us, who might be scratching our heads over the fuss over four-year split of alumni groups on the Mississippi University for Women campus, understand what the impact of the feud meant to the 2,500-student school. 


One official involved in the negotiations to bring the groups back together -- negotiations that took months of excruciating detail over every word, every detail in the new groups'' charter and path to reunification -- likened the impact to the cost of renovating one building on campus. 


Some brief background: Back in 2006, past MUW President Claudia Limbert had accused workers and members of the official MUW Alumnae Association of trying to undermine her leadership and hinder fundraising efforts. She fired a beloved alumnae director, and when things reached a boiling point in 2007, terminated the century-old group''s official ties with the school. The spurned alumnae sued, won, then lost on appeal to the state Supreme Court. A second, official, alumni group was formed, though it never was able to gain real traction. 


Along the way, deep trenches were dug. Alumni, and the supporters of the school in the community, were forced to choose sides. 


The disenfranchised alumnae sabotaged Limbert at every opportunity. They actively lobbied against her plans to find a gender-neutral and enrollment-boosting name for the school. The plan was strongly endorsed by local governments, business interests, and this newspaper, but was dead on arrival in the Legislature, thanks to the lobbying against it. 


All this has happened of course, during the Great Recession. School funding, and enrollment numbers, have never been more important, Budgets have been slashed. Just when help from help from alumni was never needed more, many alums vowed to withhold donations to the school until the conflict was resolved -- and many did. 


Even worse, the constant bickering among the groups led to a sense of apathy and disinterest about the school itself among the Columbus community. The school is a critical economic engine in the heart of downtown. With increased support, it could be so much more. 


That support has withered these last four years. 


The costs are incalculable, really. 


These groups would never reunite under Limbert -- that was a given. Her retirement, and the pitch-perfect choice of alum and former 4-County Electric Power Association CEO Allegra Brigham as interim president, paved the way for reunification. 


Enough praise could never be heaped on Brigham, who reached out to the disenfranchised groups at every turn, publicly apologizing on behalf of the school in front of every civic club and chicken-dinner lunch that would have her. She brought the groups back to the table. 


She was our own Carter at Camp David. 


Countless hours of meetings and phone calls culminated what we saw on campus on Saturday: Misty-eyed members of both groups, locked arm in arm, singing the school song, "Hail to Thee." We have a road map to peace, which will end on July 1 with the groups officially reunited. 


We hope that the end of the feud will mean increased donations to The W from alumni. The school has never needed it more. We also hope that the Columbus community renews its interest in, and support of, the university. Frankly, one can''t survive without the other.



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Reader Comments

Article Comment kat commented at 4/19/2011 7:01:00 PM:

Perfectly written and right on point, Birney. What I saw on campus this week-end for Homecoming was wonderful. It is more important than ever for the alumni groups to pull together and SAVE the "W". All over campus everyone was singing the praises of Ms. Brigham-not one negative comment was heard by this alum. Now the people of Columbus need to come back to the table also and fully support the efforts of this fine institution. It truly is a special place.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 4/20/2011 2:19:00 PM:

Special place for what? Women? The school is as sexist today as it was the day the first male sued them to force them into allowing males to attend it. Had he not filed the suit, the school would still be all female to this day. It certainly wouldn't have ever been accepted on its own if the Old Blue Haired Mafia had its way about it.


Article Comment jecuador commented at 4/20/2011 10:12:00 PM:

You know what happened to that guy, Roscoe? He filed his suit, won it, and fell off the face of the planet.

There are plenty of only men colleges--why don't you try one of those instead of whining about women having their own.


Article Comment kat commented at 4/21/2011 2:29:00 AM:

to Roscoe- do you like ANYTHING IN COLUMBUS other than the sounds of your negative comments? So far I can't remember ANYTHING positive or uplifting about your ramblings. Just what have YOU done lately to make Columbus a better place? Wait---- I bet I can answer that---absolutely NOTHING. All you do is gripe and complain about the people that are trying to make a difference.

I'll bet you are a ton of fun to be around........


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 4/21/2011 7:46:00 AM:

jecuador...I've already graduated...from there. So I can, and have earned the right to, speak about the school. I was there, and I know how the place is towards males, and if you don't like me saying it, well cupcake that is just too bad.

Kat...if you've ever lived anywhere else you'd know how sad this little town really is, and how sloppy things are done here. What have I done? I've tried to wake you up. I've tried to wake up the leadership of this town, but being the lazy bums they are, they'd rather stay in bed all day. For instance, did you see Mr. Gavin crying about his flower money? Of all the things needed to be done here Mr. Gaving can only focus on flowers.

Do you realize kids from this town leave here and only come back to visit, if then? Do you know why? Clue: there's nothing here, economy- wise or otherwise.

Like I said, had you ever lived anywhere else that had a clue, you'd know how pitiful this town is, how poorly managed it is, and in some instances how evil it is. And there is plenty of evil in this town, maybe you just haven't been exposed to it yet. And I don't mean evil in a Biblical sense, I mean institutions and businesses who have that "christian love" look on their faces, but that isn't who you'll be dealing with behind the scenes. You can't even trust your local hospital. Bet you didn't know about that one either.

A ton of fun to be around huh? So you prefer people who act like everything is just hunky dory when it isn' a plastic you. I'll pass.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 4/21/2011 7:47:00 AM:

And before you say it, I can't leave...just yet. But looking forward to the day in a manner of speaking.


Article Comment kat commented at 4/22/2011 3:24:00 PM:

well roscoe- let's see...I've lived in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Little Rock, Mobile, Daphne, Monroe, La. and Shreveport. I traveled 4 states for 15 years with my job, so I would say I qualify to talk about small towns.
All kids leave for some point as they grow, but the largest percentage return at some point to the values and places they love to raise their children. Did anyone EVER day Columbus was perfect > No, but it damn sure beats plenty of other towns with the same number of people. You are so bitter and wrapped up in your own misery that you don't want to see the good----just the stagnant. Get out of your house and live a little- smile at your neighbor, go to a ballgame, visit the farmers market.....just stop the griping !
Columbus has plenty to offer to those who are interested......look at how Fairhope Al. changed to an art focused community. That didn't happen over night and it took people pulling together. At least some people in Columbus are TRYING !!! Why don't you JOIN them?

and as for you leaving, I'm sure there are others that are looking forward to it also.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 4/22/2011 9:02:00 PM:

Kat, I have been here for 35+ years with "vacations" at other addresses. I have watched Columbus slide down the slope all the while the good two shoes were singing 4 part harmonies about how wonderful the place is, uh, was, and I have another perspective on it.

Do you know about the hospital taking little old ladies who are confused and suckering them into signing themselves into Willowbrook? Probably not.

Surely you must know about how hard it is to get anyone in local govt. to do anything except hand out excuses?

And you must also know about the long history of flooding here, and how there has been nearly nothing done about it except for the aforementioned excuses.

I dunno, maybe you're easily amused by things like diners and bars, or Riverwalks, and trinket shops, but it doesn't work for me. As for my getting out, I don't need to be entertained like a child by "going somewhere" and even if I did, I have a responsibility at the house which would prevent it, and I shoulder that responsibility alone. 24/7.

And while shouldering it, I am watching this fine city you think is so wonderful demolish her yard through neglect, excuses, and outright ignorance. I watched the medical establishment, someone you have been taught you can trust since childhood, take cruel and evil advantage of a senior citizen and there isn't a soul in this entire town, including at the source of the evil, that cares at all about anything except their own needs and the money.

Maybe you just are young and haven't gotten to the this point yet. Maybe that's it. Maybe you just won't see it, maybe you're just scared to look.


Article Comment roscoe p. coltrain commented at 4/24/2011 7:16:00 AM:

Awwww, cat got your tongue?


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