October 22, 2009 11:06:00 AM
For the past year, I have been watching the MUW name change drama unfold from the comfort of my porch on College Street. I have heretofore kept my opinions to myself because I am a business owner in a small town, and the last thing we want to do is write letters and ruffle feathers. However, the last few articles in The Commercial Dispatch have spurred me to action.
Your story on Monday that contained quotes from three state legislators made me realize that I had been silent long enough. Contrary to what these three men think, there happens to be a lot of support for Reneau University from us "silent" alumni. The truth is that a lot of us live and work here in Columbus, and we are too darn busy trying to make a living to rip off letter after letter to make our case.
Yes, we mumble under our breath as we read every bitter diatribe opposing the new name. Of course the name should be changed. Men have been admitted to "The W" since I started there in 1982. A name change has been way, way overdue. Why are we being held hostage by these people who have no dog in this fight anymore?
Those of us who live in Columbus and the surrounding area know how important this university is to Columbus. These alumni who are so opposed would rather let it die than change. They haven''t been getting their way, so they have been withholding their money and support...Mrs. Jones said so herself.
What is more important, a name or the survival of the entity itself? The name has been changed twice already, and the university is still here. Will changing the name negate the legacy of all of the wonderful past and present faculty? Of course not.
I graduated from S.D. Lee High, which is not a high school anymore, and pretty soon won''t even be a middle school. Does this affect how I remember high school? Um, no. Things change, and we have to adapt.
How insane would it be to throw away 18 months of work on the name just because these three men and a small group of very vocal alumni don''t like it. For pete''s sake just change the name and let''s move on, people. Because if we don''t, I''m afraid that soon I will be looking across the street at an empty campus that contains neither women nor smart men.
MUW, Class of ''87
TL commented at 10/22/2009 7:31:00 PM:
Ms. Pridmore's letter is the most SENSIBLE piece that I have read so far on this subject. She is the kind of woman that Columbus needs more of, instead of the people that so desperately cling to traditions. This town, like the "W", must change or die!!
iSaint commented at 10/22/2009 9:25:00 PM:
Proud to say that I know Helen G Pridmore! Thank you for this straightforward and accurate letter.
Male MUW Alum '96 and MAT '07
WGirl commented at 10/23/2009 8:47:00 AM:
Good letter, Helen! My thoughts exactly.
Get Off Your Porch commented at 10/23/2009 10:04:00 AM:
Ms. Pridmore seems to me to be indicative of the local business community and far too many area W alums - content to sit by on the sidelines and watch what happens to MUW rather than to actively participate in helping it succeed. Those of us who have been trying to make a positive difference are also busy making a living, and I do not appreciate her implication that we have been speaking out in our opposition to a name change because we have so much free time.
I have come to Columbus from far away, bringing my money to local hotels, restaurants and retail establishments in order to attend special events at MUW, including Homecoming and the Welty Writers Symposium. When doing so, I have seen little or no indication that the Columbus business community even knows MUW exists! There are no banners, no marquee signs, few to no university logo'd items for sale - you'd think MSU, Ole Miss and Alabama were in closer proximity.
Hopefully, her business acumen is more on target than her perceptions of higher education marketing. WOMEN are the primary target of ALL colleges in this country! And a liberal arts university with a long and prestigious record of helping women succeed should capitalize on that rather than trying to forge an entirely new identity in order to appease the male sensibility.
Progressive women who believe in women's education are not holding you hostage Ms. Pridmore; you are doing that all by yourself.
Off Her Rocker commented at 10/23/2009 10:56:00 AM:
Amen, "Porch". Thank you for putting some sense onto this web page.
JC commented at 10/23/2009 3:52:00 PM:
There are no banners, no marquee signs, few to no university logo'd items for sale - you'd think MSU, Ole Miss and Alabama were in closer proximity.
The W should have a football team.
The Chefs? The Fightin' Paralegals?
PS commented at 10/23/2009 6:08:00 PM:
In response to "Porch"
The idea that the local business community does not know that MUW exists is ludicrous! I work in the office of a small business in Columbus and we support the university in a number of ways. We have advertised in their paper, sponsored a few events, attend functions and many other things. By the looks of the crowds at most events we are not the only ones from the local business community do this. How can someone who does not live in Columbus make a claim like that?! As for Ms. Pridmore, I think she showed great courage in speaking out for her alma mater and I am proud to live in a town where is a business owner!
Off Your Rocker commented at 10/24/2009 9:14:00 AM:
PS: "How can someone who does not live in Columbus make a claim like that?!" That is PRECISELY who SHOULD make a claim like that - an "outsider" looking in, who has been to Columbus, Starkville, Tuscaloosa and Hattiesburg and who sees what locals may be overlooking. With the exception of the highway signage, it is not apparent that MUW is in Columbus until you turn onto College Street near the campus. And I have planned meetings in Columbus in conjunction with The W's annual Homecoming - held on or near the same weekend every April for a number of years now - and learned upon contact that the Columbus Convention and Visitor's Bureau did not even have the event marked on its calendar! Thank you for sponsoring a few events and attending some functions, but that is hardly an overwhelming show of support for a local university comparable in any way to that shown by other college towns in my experience. It is precisely that self-satisfied, tepid "support" bordering on oblivion that Get Off Your Porch was picking up on in the response to Ms. Pridmore. The true courage has been shown by those Columbus area alums who have raised tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships and host special events for students and faculty - THEY have stepped up to the plate, gotten off their porches and shown TRUE support for MUW. And P.S., almost all support retaining the current name...
Reneau Supporter commented at 10/24/2009 10:36:00 AM:
Go Helen! The "W" holds back potential students. If I were a female from out of the city of columbus starting college I would not even look at an a college called the "W" or Miss Univ for Women, If I were a male starting college I sure would not even think or look at a College called Miss Univ for Women! Even though its a great school the current name is hurting it. Lets Move on get the Name Changed and watch the College Grow! We need more Helen's!
No to Reneau commented at 10/24/2009 12:17:00 PM:
Reneau Supporter, I have news for you: prospective students look for far more than a name when selecting a college to attend.
So, 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!
I was going to attend Yale University until I learned it did not offer an undergraduate degree in journalism. Its student body at that time was 9 males to every 1 female, while Harvard's was 8-2. Less than 2% of college newspaper editors were female and fewer than 1% of college student government presidents were women. At that time, 100% of MUW's editors and presidents were women!
I chose MUW, despite many other options, and came to Mississippi in order to fulfill my goals. And I have met many young women who remind me of that girl I was then; they are currently outstanding students at MUW.
No matter its name, its history and traditions and current course offerings and areas of strength are going to be the same. And the most effective marketing and recruiting will target high achieving females who are interested in an educational experience that allows them to lead and grow in an environment which supports and expects the best of every student, regardless of gender. There are more women than men in nearly every college in America and Mississippi is no different. Why miss the mark and aim at a less attractive market segment? Let the flagship state universities recruit those not interested in what The W offers and direct MUW's leadership to market the high quality product that it has to a market segment more likely to appreciate it.
The name is not the product and the product is what it is, no matter what you call it. MUW administrators and misguided name change supporters need to quit wasting time and resources in pursuit of a perceived 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!
Marco commented at 10/24/2009 2:48:00 PM:
Someone mentioned male sensibility and that's an oxymoron.
And the name change from MUW is nothing more than a neo-facist money grab.
Dog in the Hunt commented at 10/25/2009 1:34:00 AM:
I love how the group that supports keeping the current name always say the name shouldn't be a problem. All the people who want to come here will do their research and come anyway in spite of the name. So if the name doesn't matter, change it for the ones who are bothered by it and all the others will do their research and come anyway. It seems to me the only ones really hung up on the name are the same group of alums who just won't let go. Fire away!
observer2 commented at 10/25/2009 2:01:00 PM:
JC is chasing rabbits but might be onto something about a football team. First though, let's change the name to "Possum Town U" and call team " The Possumetts".
JC commented at 10/26/2009 10:02:00 AM:
observer2, how about a compromise?
The Possum Town University Fighting Pastry Chefs
Reneau Supporter commented at 10/28/2009 12:33:00 PM:
To "No to Reneau": Too bad you did not go to Yale. That would have been the best choice. I could say, I could have gone to Baylor or Stanford or somewhere, we did not have the money too. So I don't say "I could have went to this or that college". The could have and the would have don,t fill the bill. Its the "Should have"! If the name does not change then we can then say it "Should Have" but if we don't try then its going to be we "Use to Have" a college in this backwards town. So lets say "We Have" to Reneau! Let's Move on! Go Helen!!!!!!!!!
not sitting around commented at 10/29/2009 2:08:00 PM:
Businesses REALLY support the administration that has looted $1.4 MILLION from the Endowment funds of the Foundation? Really?! The booted out alumnae association asked a few questions about money several years ago and look at the avalanche that has ensued. The CD's non-article on the meat of the PEER report is shameful. I suppose if the truth of what PEER found actually got printed, a whole lot of people would need to eat a whole lot of crow.
PEER found that $1.4 million of endowment fund money entrusted to the Foundation has been spent on unrestricted funds. They found that the Foundation's board has placed the entire fund at risk. They found that the Foundation could not even produce its own board meeting minutes. They found that certain board members have acted beyond their authority. Yet, NONE of this gets reported.
As the owner of three businesses, I have been known to dash off a letter or two regarding the W. It's important to me. I have read everything the old alumnae has posted on their website, Perry Sansing's response, and the complete 143 page PEER report, which is appalling. Perhaps if she weren't sitting on her porch, Ms. Pridmore would know enough to make informed judgements.
I'd never want to be the person who supports fiscal irresponsibility of the magnitude PEER reported.
Thanks To Not Sitting Around commented at 10/29/2009 11:26:00 PM:
Thank you, "Not Sitting Around," for hitting the nail on the head IMO as to WHY Dr. Limbert began the feud with MUW's active and supportive alums in the first place - because they wanted to know that their donated funds were being put to proper use. And the PEER Report clearly indicates that there was trouble in W-town, with a Capital T! Maybe she has always been a lame duck/puppet dictator or as some believe, she may have had nefarious motives. We may never know, but what is known is that tens upon tens of thousands of dollars have already been spent by the MUW Foundation to pay The Cirlot Agency for the name change efforts to date; efforts which may never amount to anything but money in the bank for that agency. This entire name change effort has been little more than a costly bait and switch scheme to deflect the appropriate scrutiny of the administration and its poor performance. It is definitely time that all interested publics call for a corporate makeover for MUW, one that does not require a name change but which DOES require vision and leadership and a true strategic plan.
1. Possumhaw: Letting your imagination run wild LOCAL COLUMNS