Article Comment 

MUW: Stay the course on name change




As each day passes, the discussion surrounding the renaming of Mississippi University for Women more resembles the Abbott and Costello comedy skit, "Who''s on First?" 


Who is on first and who is in charge? Seems everyone has their own idea of what the school should be renamed (or not), yet no consensus has developed for any of the names offered. This despite the spending of thousands of dollars for marketing research and the tireless efforts of various naming committees, a process that yielded Reneau University. 


Poor Sallie Reneau. The 19th century women''s advocate whose Herculean efforts led to the establishment of the school, won out over the Waverleys, the Weltys and all the geographic names that would either confuse the school with existing state universities or make it sound like a community college. Reneau University is distinctive, relevant and imparts a cachet any school would envy. By the time the name, Reneau, was announced, however, support of the school''s administration had begun to waver for fear lawmakers would not like it. 


As it turns out, those fears were well founded. Despite all that went into coming up with Reneau, the name lacks a champion. Rep. Jeff Smith is said to detest the name. Sen. Terry Brown favors a geographic moniker, something like University of Northeast Mississippi. Rep. Gary Chism is against change altogether.  


Some argue that since Reneau was a woman, naming it after her does not solve the gender-specific issue. Horse feathers. 


With the exception of a handful of outspoken alumnae whose influence is disproportionate to their number, almost anyone who is paying attention will tell you the school desperately needs a gender-neutral name. IHL Board President Scott Ross isn''t the only one saying the school''s survival hinges on that change. 


The Lowndes Board of Supervisors, the Columbus City Council, the Columbus-Lowndes County Development Link board and the Mississippi Economic Council all have expressed support for the name change. 


The work that now needs to be done is in the Legislature. Brown and others have suggested handing off the decision to the IHL board. That is as it should be. Choosing of a name for the school is not the business of the Legislature. Letting the IHL make the call would give cover to those legislators who fear those angry alums who cling to the old ways. 


The squabbling and vacillating need to stop. We agree with Scott Ross. This is a matter of survival for MUW. That the school needs a new gender-neutral name is a given. Through an exacting and deliberative process, a name has been chosen. Now, instead of passing the buck and predicting failure, we expect our legislators to lead -- to authorize the IHL board to make the call shortly after the 2010 Legislature convenes.



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Reader Comments

Article Comment JC commented at 10/21/2009 12:03:00 PM:

"Northeast Mississippi Universitah of Fancy Book Larnin'"


Article Comment J commented at 10/21/2009 12:05:00 PM:

There is wavering because people are starting to realize just how much tax payer dollars this administration has wasted on a project that they can't fully fund even if by some miracle the IHL and/or the Legislature agree to even consider the matter. This is money that could have been spent on actually promoting the school as most universities do. It could have been used to make sure that current programs stay funded and fully functional. It could have been used to fun scholarships to lure the best and the brightest to MUW. There are so many things that could have been and now that Limbert has realized she's not getting her way she's leaving. This is an opportunity for MUW to come back to greatness.

It's time the state and the nation discovers what a real gem they have in Mississippi University for Women. The mission of this school has not changed. The IHL and the state Legislature would be best served if they actually played to the school's strengths instead of constantly trying to bring it down. Do some re-branding and really promote the school throughout the country and even in other countries - not just in the small populations of Mississippi. MUW has many things which make it unique in the nation, 4 year degrees in Paralegal Studies (this is an ABA approved program and a degree, not a certificate program), Culinary Arts school, Nursing program, and so many more things that the community, state and nation should take the time to discover. Let's not destroy a good thing here. Let's make it better.


Article Comment Jimmie Moomaw commented at 10/21/2009 12:19:00 PM:

We agree on one fundamental point. This is about the survival of MUW. BUT, fundamental to the concept of change is the premise that "the burden of proof is on he who advocates changes...presumption favors the staus quo. It is the same principle in the courts of law where "one is presumed innocent until proven guilty."

Those who now advocate change have failed to offer any proof that changing the name will produce the desired increase enrolment. The fact is that the same Consultants that the W cite counselled Randolph Macon College for Women to change their name to Randolph College. They did. Then when a few males enrolled...female enrollment declined and produced a net loss in enrollmment. Statistics for this year, show that while enrollment increases at other colleges in the Virgnia area, Randoph College enrollment continues to drop.

In short, the only truly comparable example to be cited shows that changing the name not only does not produce an increase. It results in a decrease. Thus it is more likely than not that changing the name will INCREASE CHANCES OF THE COLLEGES DEMISE.

Those who support rebranding the institution as "The W" argue that revamping and expanding the marketing campaign would be a much better solution - especially in light of the need to search for a new President.

I do not doubt that Columbus leaders concerned about the potential loss of the positive economic impact the W has on the community don't want to see the W die. No one does. There is great irony in noting that the "good ole boys" network that repeatedly dismisses W alums as blue-haired and shrill, are manifesting an emotion based knee jerk reaction to the current name. "Real men don't eat quiche, and real men won't go to a college with the word "women" in the name." All one has to do is drive around campus to see that is not true.

We're also told that recruiters keep hearing that students think it is a womens'college. Surely, those recruiters are well enough trained to immediately counter and dispel that idea. Surely they can preempt that notion in their introductory remarks by proactively pointing out that the W is not a Women's College...that it has been admitting men for 27 years. Surely they can pass out brochures replete with multiple pictures of happy male students.

It is disingenuous to argue that we should admit men because recruiters hear people say they think it is a womens' college...when it is the responsibility of recruiters to be sure that those they recruit know exactly what the W offers males and females.

It is not too late for proponents of the name change to re-assess the premises on which they base their argument.

If the W does die, it will be because the name wasn't changed...but because it was changed.


Article Comment Lenore Griffin commented at 10/21/2009 4:45:00 PM:

Mr. Ross, Lowndes Supervisors, the LINK, City Council, MEC, Commercial Dispatch and MUW Administration... PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, show us the figures, the projections that PROVE a name change will dramatically increase the enrollment at MUW!! Not hope, but proof. A few students who are embarrassed to have "women" on their diploma or a few students who chose, or choose, not to attend for the same reason is simply not reason enough to change the name of this historic institution. If the name changes, a mission change will not be far behind.

And now to ask the Legislature to shirk their responsibility and authorize the IHL to choose a name is absolutely absurd. Would you do the same if it were Ole Miss, Jackson State, MSU or USM that needed a name change? I imagine Mr. Ross and others would be leading the charge on the Legislature.

As for the "handful of outspoken alumnae whose influence is disproportionate to their number", I think the numbers are greater than you imagine!

Jimmie Moomaw made some great comments about recruiting and recruiters. I worked as an Admissions Representative (recruiter) for MUW for seven years and the reaction of students to the name "Mississippi University for Women" was actually no different then (the 70s) than it is now! It took a real sales job to recruit students, but we had a great marketing program and had a great enrollment. It CAN be done and THAT is what is needed now.

I choose not to hide behind an alias for my comment, and yes, I am an alum, I give to the Foundation, and I am a member of the Mississippi's First Alumnae Association.


Article Comment TL commented at 10/21/2009 8:30:00 PM:

Good grief, people. Tradition is killing Columbus, as well as the "W". No one can offer concrete proof that a name change will increase enrollment. But we DO know that enrollment is withering away already; a drastic makeover is needed to save this sinking ship. In addition, calling it a university for "women", regardless of male enrollment, is discriminatory and cannot be allowed to continue.


Article Comment Lenore Griffin commented at 10/21/2009 10:28:00 PM:

Tradition has not killed Denton, TX, nor TWU. Evidently it is not considered discriminatory in Texas to have "women" in the name of a state university, nor has it been a hindrance to their enrollment.

It is NOT the name that is hurting The W!

From the website of Texas Women's University:

"Brief History of TWU"

An act of the 27th Legislature in 1901 founded the Girls Industrial College, the school that would become Texas Woman's University in 1957. The school had then and has now a dual mission: to provide a liberal education and to prepare young women "for the practical industries of the age" with a specialized education.

Men have been admitted to TWU since 1972.

TWU today offers a comprehensive catalog of academic studies, including baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees. Now in its tenth decade, the University has grown from a small college to a major university. TWU is the largest university primarily for women in the United States, with the main campus in Denton and health science centers in Dallas and Houston.


Article Comment Iam Wright commented at 10/22/2009 1:04:00 PM:

"Would you do the same if it were Ole Miss, Jackson State, MSU or USM that needed a name change?"

Interesting. Even you know in your gut that MUW needs a name change. It is slipping out between the cracks Lenore.

Is common sense a lost trait in today's world?


Article Comment Lenore Griffin commented at 10/22/2009 5:11:00 PM:

Mr./Ms. Iam Wright,

I am glad that you feel YOU know what MY gut feeling is! LOL Whatever you THINK slipped between the cracks, it is certainly not that I think The W needs a name change, because I am 100% opposed.

What is sad is that throughout this discussion that anyone who is opposed to the name change, or this administration, is labeled as having no common sense or having no concern for the future of this university.

I have listened to the arguments from both sides of this issue and I happen to believe and choose the side of keeping the name as it is.

Sorry Iam Wright, but Uam Wrong.


Article Comment W grad 86 commented at 10/22/2009 6:06:00 PM:

I have been following the name change controvery closely since day one. It is sad that very few of our alums have any idea what the real world is like. Selling a school to students is a marketing effort closely akin to causing someone to buy your brand of bread. With all the universities available I am amazed by those alums who continue to say let the nation see what we have in MUW, but yet say MUW is perceived as a school for women. Please! If I have a business that is named Dogs Galore, would I expect cat owners to select seek my services? The tough love position is that the nation doesn't give a hoot about MUW unless the one who cares is married to an alum, has a family member who has attended, or lives in the Mid-South area near Columbus, and has heard good things about the university. To get more students a university must justify its existence first and then "sell" the student on attending there. Frankly, without the name change MUW has almost no chance of growing, possibly even staying open. It is also sad to see the future of a fabulous school hanging in the balance with educators and politico making the name decision.
The most qualifed persons to make such a decision are those who have the responsiblity to run a large business and to compete in the real world market leaders, preferably those who know marketing and are responsible for brand survival. I am sure that Harvard, Stanford, Yale could survive for years without marketing plans, but universities like MUW must have a plan, and that plan has to include making MUW attractive to men, and not just men in Columbus. Why would a man from Wisconsin, Texas, or Missouri ever agree to attend a school in Columbus, MS especially one that has the words for women in its name? Also the complaints about what to name the school is very short sighted. Reneau University is a great name. It is gender-neutral unless you are related to Sallie or are one of the few who know the history. A big plus is that the alums can hang onto that name. They know who Sallie was and what she did. I would love to have ny diploma read Reneau University, Columbus, MS!!


Article Comment David Slaughter commented at 10/23/2009 9:45:00 AM:

How typical that our legislative guys can't agree or get a move on about even this minor issue...I'm inclined to think that the prerequisites for political office are...


Article Comment slowdown commented at 10/23/2009 12:05:00 PM:

This matter has not even been presented to the Legislature yet, although you make some good points!


Article Comment Sigmund commented at 10/23/2009 1:13:00 PM:


"certainly not that I think The W needs a name change"

Without even realizing it, you used a what if the other universities "needed a name change" argument. This indicates that you realize MUW really does need a name change. If not then why use such an argument?


Article Comment J commented at 10/23/2009 2:28:00 PM:

You are right about one thing W grad 86, the marketing of MUW has been woefully lacking and in order for it to remain competitive (no matter what the name) it must adequately advertise itself to potential students. One problem with your theory though, is that the typical student and the landscape of higher education is changing. MUW is not the only school having trouble recruiting males and it has nothing to do with the name. ALL schools are becoming predominantly female so the male student is becoming hard for universities to come by. Given that data, gender neutrality becomes less important. What is important is having great programs and marketing those programs to potential students. That is why so many people are calling for a rebranding effort instead. It would be more cost effective to do this, because lets face it, the state of Mississippi and all universities in the state barely have the money to fund current programs and further cuts are coming down the pike constantly. They don't have the money do to both a name change and then an effective advertising campaign to educate potential students on this new school. The next administration is going to have to think outside of the box and start using things like Facebook or offering more online courses to attract students. There's more than one way to reach the goal that everyone seems to want, which is to make MUW even better than before. There are those who just don't think the name change is the way to get there.


Article Comment Def Not Sigmund commented at 10/23/2009 6:08:00 PM:

I applaud Ms. Moomaw and Ms. Griffin for going on record with their opinions without hiding behind an alias - as did both Sigmund and I. Of course, Sigmund did not truly express an opinion of his - or her - own, but instead chose an amateur psychoanalysis of Ms. Griffin's comments. I think she made it very clear as to her point of view! And as for my opinion, I think Sigmund needs to quit practicing without a license!

Oh, and I do support MUW both literally and figuratively and I strongly believe that an outstanding and highly reputable university with a long-standing tradition of educating women and preparing them for leadership CAN be effectively marketed to high achieving females and open-minded males.


Article Comment Def Not Sigmund commented at 10/23/2009 10:15:00 PM:

I applaud Ms. Moomaw and Ms. Griffin for going on record with their opinions without hiding behind an alias - as did both Sigmund and I. Of course, Sigmund did not truly express an opinion of his - or her - own, but instead chose an amateur psychoanalysis of Ms. Griffin's comments. I think she made it very clear as to her point of view! And as for my opinion, I think Sigmund needs to quit practicing without a license!

Oh, and I do support MUW both literally and figuratively and I strongly believe that an outstanding and highly reputable university with a long-standing tradition of educating women and preparing them for leadership CAN be effectively marketed to high achieving females and open-minded males.


Article Comment Common Sense commented at 10/24/2009 10:53:00 AM:

Its just common sense to change the name, who really would ever want to go to a college called the "W" or Mississippi University for WOMEN? The only reason I can think of is, its local and convenient. There is no other real reason for someone from out of state to Really want to go to a College called the W, is there. But Reneau University sounds like One actually Graduated from SOMEWHERE! If I would looking for a Job, out of state somewhere, say in Denver or Detroit, I would be embarrassed to present a potential employer a resume saying I graduated from the W. They would say what is the "W" and when you say University for Women, man their gut feeling, oh you know. But if your Resume says Reneau University, what a stately name man that almost sounds like a Vanderbilt or Duke type university, what a great 1st impression for the young job hunter! Go Reneau! A Name Change is Common Sense!


Article Comment Uncommon Sense commented at 10/24/2009 12:27:00 PM:

Well, like my parents always said, common sense isn't very common.

I have news for you: prospective students look for far more than a name when selecting a college to attend. Suppose a high school senior - male or female - gets a fantastic recruiting package from a prospective University. What do they do if at all interested? Research it online, of course. They find it was founded as the nation's first public institution of higher education for women in America, its student body is comprised of 84 percent females, it is located in a small city in primarily rural northeast Mississippi, its published mission is identified as educating women and preparing them for leadership, among its best known strengths are liberal arts education and nursing. Now, if that university is named Mississippi University for Women this student will not attend. However, should its name be Reneau University (formerly MUW until renamed in 2010), they are going to sign up? I don't think so!

The name is not the product and the product is what it is, no matter what you call it. MUW administrators and those name change supporters need to quit wasting time and resources in pursuit of a solution that will not cure the current lack of vision nor enhance enrollment. The true solution is Marketing 101: sell the reality of the product that you have to offer in the marketplace to that segment most likely to buy it!

For MUW, the target should be high achieving females and males interested in the university's strongest programs. If effectively marketed those target audiences would be the same for Reneau University, should the name change. So why waste time and money changing the name only to find that it hasn't fixed the problem? The true solution is Marketing 101: sell the reality of the product that you have to that segment most likely to buy it!


Article Comment Iam Wright commented at 10/24/2009 1:15:00 PM:

Common Sense is exactly right. The "W" association is an archaic moniker that hinders the University's ability to recruit students. It should have been dispensed with 20+ years ago.

Move into the 21st century Columbus! Ignore these dinosaurs that are stuck in the past. If you don't, your university is destined to become just another page in the history books.


Article Comment one more opinion commented at 10/24/2009 11:17:00 PM:

To Jimmie Moomaw:

Asking for proof that a name change would increase enrollment is like asking for proof the sun will come up tomorrow. I think you and I both know the name change would help, but that's not proof. You surely don't expect people to believe enrollment at a school dropped just because the name changed. Aren't you one of the people saying if a school is marketed properly, it won't matter what the name is?

Recruiters don't get a chance to talk to all potential students to "explain the name". Simply changing the name will remove that obstacle.

To Lenore Griffin:

The idea here is to help the school survive. Surely you don't feel a fair comparison can be made between MUW and TWU. TWU is located in a metro-plex with over 6 million people! Muw, as you know, is in a city of about 24,000 people with the state's largest university about 20 miles away. I might also add that TWU has an enrollment of under 12,000 while North Texas State, in the same city, has over 36,000 students. As Texas schools go, 12 thousand is not really very big and I am sure that MUW could keep the same name and survive inside that population base.

Finally,if males don't mind the name, why is the male enrollment only 16 percent? This is from a parent of a male student who switched schools for his fourth year to avoid having "for women" on his diploma.


Article Comment Grady commented at 10/24/2009 11:59:00 PM:

It ain't rocket science folks. The "for women" is a turn off for a significant number of both males and females considering attendance at the university. If you don't do anything else then at the very least drop the sexist suffix. Arguing to keep that name in this day and age is, well, just stupid.


Article Comment dewayne lashley commented at 10/27/2009 1:47:00 PM:

I live on the Gulf Coast but grew up in Columbus. I remember the many names that the "W" had before and personnally a name change isn't what the "W" need but new identity. Once you get outside of Jackson the name is silent. What I mean is the HBC schools have the battle of the bands on the coast to grow interest. MSU, Ole MS, USM have recruiter and alumni and statewide commericals that champion their schools. It would be better to just market the school as its current name with advertisement showing female and stating male students are especially welcome. If you change the name and still don't market the school all of this will be in vain. The tradition that grandmothers graduate from the "W" and sent their daughters that follow through is long gone. Today's students regardless of gender want to know what attractions that school and city has to offer. If it don't match their interest it will just be a school with a great tradition and excellent education that only the locals and surrounding communities know about. It also will be one that those faithful alumni encourage their children to attend. Just keep the name and market the school outside of the GTR and surrounding states those that see will follow. All schools have to market because traditions only go so far. The "W" has two four year schools on each side of it and they have to say choose us because. MS Gulf Coast Community College is probably the largest JC in the state with many units, but have only one campus that houses students which is in Perkinston because they market their school. Maybe the "W" should just hire an image consultant to see how they fair just state wide for interest and go from there and save the court cost. If they win the new name and don't gain additional students what gain has happen?


Article Comment Grady commented at 10/27/2009 5:01:00 PM:

Chinese assembly instructions?


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