August 27, 2009 11:00:00 AM
Eleven years ago I was a senior at Columbus High School. I hadn''t the slightest idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. My guidance counselor shot down my dreams of attending Morehouse College in Atlanta. She told me that I didn''t have the necessary requirements to gain a full scholarship to the liberal arts college for African-American men. So I felt helpless, disheartened and depressed about my prospects of going to college. Ironically, she told me that I should attend Mississippi University for Women, a school traditionally attended by women, because of my father''s current employment there, which would grant me a deduction off my tuition/dorm fees, its inexpensive cost and its close proximity to home.
I attended class day along with the rest of my fellow senior classmates on a Thursday night before graduation. I sat on the gym floor along with my peers. My parents were in the stands sitting proudly. I remember my name being called to receive a partial scholarship from MUW. As I got up to walk forward and receive my honor laughter spread around me. To my peers and the people present I was a joke. I was a man about to attend MUW. Funny how some things never change.
In 2003, I earned my degree from MUW, and I still find myself having to explain how a male attended a women''s college, routinely ending with a round of laughs. I''m proud that I attended MUW and earned a diploma in journalism. It has garnered me two great jobs in a six-year span. My first job was at MUW, serving as graphic designer in the Office of Public Affairs. My second and current job is as marketing director for Keep Tennessee Beautiful, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. These achievements would not have been met without the knowledge and experiences I gained at MUW. For that I will always have positive views of the institution.
For all of its glory, prestige, and history, there is one thing MUW can''t change, and that is perception -- the perception that it''s a women''s school. That perception is strong and broad.
The reality is that fine individuals of both genders experience great careers after graduating from MUW. I know many alumni who are doing quite well. However, enrollment is not high enough, which means there are major problems.
MUW President Claudia Limbert has proposed a name change which she feels will help eradicate this problem. I support this.
Life is all about change. Over the years I''ve heard the grumblings over a possible name change from both sides of this decision. Facts show that a name change can help enrollment increase and most importantly help MUW survive and prosper. If alumni love MUW they will want this to happen, personal feelings set aside.
In our hearts, MUW will always be whatever our memories hold of it. No one can take those memories away. However, the institution can be taken away from us. I urge you to show support for Dr. Limbert''s decision instead of negativity. I encourage both female and male alumni to unite together for a change, instead of hearing a cry for just "W Gals" to rally together.
I remember the days when the tagline at MUW was "And Smart Men Too." Currently, it is "A Tradition of Excellence for Women and Men." These phrases are outdated and no longer work. It is time for a change at MUW. Trust me; you will never lose MUW in your thoughts and hearts, but you may lose MUW, the institution, if disagreements continue to exist.
Why would anybody fight so hard against something they love? Current and future students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community need MUW. Please support the name change to Reneau University.
If change doesn''t come, the joke would now be on all of us if we let our beloved institution fall.
J commented at 8/27/2009 2:56:00 PM:
I'm sorry that you did not get into your school of choice and that your friends and family were not enlightened enough to support the school that you attended and your father worked for, but really that sounds like a personal problem that has nothing to do with whatever school you might have attended. You sound as if you were unhappy with your choice and never got over it and that it had nothing to do with MUW itself.
Please cite the studies where it shows that the name change alone will increase male enrollment and will more than double the current enrollment (the numbers necessary for MUW to maintain its current money from the state under the new formulas). I ask this because no one has currently provided any study that has shown this will happen. The "joke" as you put it, would be if MUW went to all this trouble to change the name and then it didn't work and they were left with no money in which to fund current programs and staff because all of it was spent on the name change and they still lost out in the funding formulas. That is what people are trying to prevent by asking if this is where we should be spending out tax dollars.
MUWgrad commented at 8/27/2009 3:55:00 PM:
Thank you, Mr. McDavis for your insightful letter.
To J, here are some sources:
*Only 4 percent of Mississippi high school seniors, female and male, taking the ACT choose to list MUW as a potential college choice.
(Source: ACT Reports located in the Office of Admissions, Mississippi University for Women)
*Many of our most loyal alumni cannot get their daughters, much less their sons, to even consider attending MUW.
(Source: Information compiled by the Office of Alumni Relations, Mississippi University for Women)
*We are seen by prospective students only as a "women's college" because of our current name. The difficulty of recruiting students as a
result of the name is best understood when you consider there were more than 300 women's colleges in America in 1960 and today there are less than 60.
(Source: U.S. News and World Report, March 11, 2009 http://www.usnews.com/articles/education/2009/03/11/the-changing-face-of-womens-colleges.html
You will no doubt disagree with the ones coming directly from MUW "but really that sounds like a personal problem."
J commented at 8/27/2009 4:05:00 PM:
That still does not answer my question. Where does it show that this name will increase male enrollment and more than double the current enrollment of the school?
J commented at 8/27/2009 4:16:00 PM:
* Can you prove that only that 4% actually decided to attend the school. What about people like Mr. McDavis who didn't get into his first school and later chose MUW?
* You cite no real statistics here so not really anything to respond to other than your opinion about alumni children attending the school
* Just because there are fewer female schools does that mean we shouldn't be recruiting those that might be interested in that type education? Exactly how many of those students are there out there that are outside of the area that we haven't attempted to recruit?
Sara commented at 8/28/2009 3:01:00 PM:
J. Are you willing to foot the bill for all the things you are proposing the W do? Recruiting all over the country for girls who MIGHT be interested in attending an all female school in this day and age? The alumni's children who are not interested in attending the W, their parents know who they are, don't need statistics for them because most of those are of a certain age, and the again they can't even talk their own kids and grandkids into going to MUW today. Wake up there is a reason for that fact.
J commented at 8/28/2009 4:34:00 PM:
U.S. News and World Report:
debug commented at 8/30/2009 11:26:00 AM:
Mr. McDavis, your letter is one of the best letters written about the W. You certainly leave no doubt as to where your heart is -- the future of the college.
I am not a grad of the W, never attended the W. I am a resident of Columbus who can clearly see that there are a group of W grads who want to make sure that the W never grows. Some of the alumni aren't happy unless they keep things stirred up. They've opposed any administration because they do not want change. These alumni want the college to be exactly the way it was 30 years or more. Nothing ever stays the same. If you look at any college, you will see that they have all made changes to appeal to today's student. The sad fact is that the W will never grow or appeal to new students due to all the negativity to this group of alunni
alan commented at 8/30/2009 3:58:00 PM:
Did anyone stop to think the name change might be part of a plan by the Prez to deal the old alumni association a final slap in the face? What else could she do to them that would hurt them more than to turn their diploma into a diploma from a school which doesn't exist anymore?
Personally, I had the distinction of having a degree from a women's university. Now I have the distinction of having a degree from a university that doesn't exist anymore.
I will never forgive the W for this betrayal.
Q commented at 8/30/2009 7:57:00 PM:
This beautifully written letter by Mr McDavis is the best, most logical, and most eloquent letter I have read on the subject of the "W" name change. The person calling themselves "J" should be ashamed for accusing Mr McDavis of having a personal problem. Nothing in his letter would lead a rational person to believe that; instead, "J" herself/himself is OBVIOUSLY the one with the personal problem, the one infected with tunnel vision and so bound up with tradition that he/she would kill the very institution they profess to love over something as silly as a name. Sad. Get over it, "J".
Megan Morgan commented at 8/31/2009 2:45:00 PM:
"To my peers and the people present I was a joke. I was a man about to attend MUW. Funny how some things never change.
In 2003, I earned my degree from MUW, and I still find myself having to explain how a male attended a women's college, routinely ending with a round of laughs."
The problem that nobody seems to be focusing on is the inherent devaluation of women that such attitudes propagate. Why is nobody mad that a "women's college," despite routinely ranking in the top Southern schools, is the subject of derision and frat-boy jokes simply because of its name? Changing the name will not change the blatant sexism that is revealed in experiences like Mr. McDavis's. If anything, it will only make it worse, because it will allow such pointless and thoughtless prejudice to triumph. What troubles me most of all is that we are all complicit in furthering sexism when we agree that because men apparently get laughed at for going to a "women's college," we should eliminate the name, mission, and legacy of such a fine university, rather than trying to combat such stupid prejudices in society.
MUW grad 82 commented at 8/31/2009 3:38:00 PM:
Since The W is known as a women's college, why not recruit regionally and nationally. I am a proud W grad and was an out-of-state student from Tennessee, who was happy to pay the out-of-state tuition for the unique, quality education that The W provided.
National statistics say that some 3 percent of women high school graduates nationwide would consider attending a women's college. That sounds like a pretty large recruiting pool if you ask me. Further, national statistics also show that currently women are applying to college in larger numbers than men.
As one of a few state-supported institutions of higher learning remaining in this country dedicated to the education of women, THe W has a unique marketing niche, if only the university would choose to pursue it. The fact that it is more affordable than most if not all of the private women's colleges in this country also is another selling point that the university could use to attract students.
As a trailblazing institution and in light of the fact that true equality for women has yet to be achieved, The W's mission remains relevant and so does its name.
alan39705 commented at 8/31/2009 3:44:00 PM:
Oh please, that tired old dog of "women aren't equal yet" won't hunt anymore. Find yourself another horn to blow.
1. Our View: A tale of two investments DISPATCH EDITORIALS
2. Voice of the people: Hank Teller LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
3. Possumhaw: Fall is the coolest season LOCAL COLUMNS
4. Leonard Pitts: We need cops with people skills NATIONAL COLUMNS
5. Froma Harrop: Twisted social media and mass murder NATIONAL COLUMNS