Article Comment 

The gulf between town and tower



The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.


While it was disappointing to see less than a dozen townspeople at a Sunday meeting of Friends of The W, it wasn''t altogether surprising. Most of the seats in the Nissan Auditorium were taken, but they were taken by the school''s students, faculty and alumni. 


Gov. Haley Barbour''s suggestion of merging Mississippi University for Women with Mississippi State University has done for MUW what no one else has been able to do in recent years: It has brought together campus, administration and alumni. Sunday''s meeting, largely orchestrated by W alumni, was an informational and strategy session intended to combat the merger movement.  


Conspicuously absent from the public conversation, however, have been area elected officials, civic and business leaders and private citizens. Fierce infighting at The W these past three years has contributed to local ambivalence about the fate of the school.  


MUW President Claudia Limbert has been unable to heal the rift between her administration and its alumni. And those same alumni, for their part, have vehemently opposed Limbert and her name change initiative, a move considered by many as essential for the school''s survival.  


As Limbert eloquently put it Sunday, "Our name needs to reflect who we are today, not who we were yesterday." 


MUW''s more than $20 million economic impact on the community is alone reason enough for local concern about the fate of the school. The lackadaisical attitude may be rooted in the idea that as part of MSU, the infighting would stop, enrollment would grow and the school would flourish as never before. 


We''re not so sure that''s the case. As a MSU satellite, The W might more resemble a hometown bank that has been swallowed multiple times by larger institutions, little more than a shell of its former self. At this point, it''s unclear exactly what would be gained by merger. 


Local ambivalence didn''t develop overnight. For years the town and tower have been drifting apart. With the closure of Demonstration School, the elimination of intercollegiate athletics and a reduction of programs that brought people to campus, there are fewer opportunities to build binding ties. 


Few downtown businesses display, "Welcome MUW" signs as they once did, and graduation at the school comes and goes with little community acknowledgment. 


All that needs to change. Columbus and The W must find a way to rekindle that old romance. The university has been an essential contributor to the cultural, intellectual and economic life of this community for 125 years; without The W, Columbus would be a poorer place in many ways. Both the town and tower need to put aside memories of the recent unpleasantness and renew their efforts to reforge broken bonds. 


This editorial was changed on 11/24/09.



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Reader Comments

Article Comment dave commented at 11/23/2009 3:14:00 PM:

Yes, the towns people better wake up. If one looks at the pending budget cuts I am afraid the W campus would be like the ugly step child for MSU and be forgotten. (Think Mary Holmes in West Point) Remember once a closure or merger happens there is no going back!


Article Comment MUW 86 commented at 11/24/2009 3:04:00 PM:

Unfortunately, the "average" Columbus resident has never been a dedicated supporter of anything having to do with civic or local progress. Sadly the local leadership has not either. Don't think I am correct; look at Columbus compared to Tupelo and now Starkville. When I first came to Columbus in 1958 Tupelo was smaller than Columbus. Today which city is perceived to be the leader in NE Mississippi. Which is larger?
It will not be many years before Starkville passes Columbus, as well. Why did that happen?
Take a look at the local leadership (board of supervisors, city council, etc), the local newspaper, and don't forget the citizens. Those who live in the past are quite comfortable. Unfortunately, most areas of the country look to the future. The progress made in bringing manufacturing companies to the area is an exception, thankfully. Our locals need to stop glorying in the past touting "our heritage" and make a better future happen.
I love Columbus and the people round about, but that doesn't mean I can't see the shortcomings.
I don't live in Columbus anymore, but many of you do. Elect qualified leaders, not someone that will pave your driveway. You know what I mean.


Article Comment pam commented at 11/25/2009 10:28:00 AM:

As a "W"grad-'75 I am totally disappointed to see what is happening in Columbus concerning the school. On a recent visit to the area- my first in 30 years- I was appalled at the lack of concern from local citizens and shop owners in downtown when I ask about what was happening at my school. They didn't care !!!!! Regardless of whom or what they support they need to UNITE TO SAVE THIS SCHOOL ! The only way I have been kept current is by following the articles in the Dispatch, and while I don't always agree with what is printed, the paper seems to understand how important this is to the future of Columbus. Where is the other support ? Why aren't the city leaders having planning sessions with legislators...why aren't the Main Street people hanging signs of support, where are the billboards on 45 that would support and promote the school , who is going to come up with a "slogan" that EVERYONE (including the feuding alums) can use to show support to the ENTIRE state??? Get off your behinds Columbus- you better wake-up and smell the coffee or you (the city) will be the "biggest loser".


Article Comment calvin commented at 11/26/2009 6:11:00 PM:

Again, we hear all of the wonderful toucy feeling reasons that the "W" is the greatest university in the state (if not the entire galaxy) but what's not addressed is how to make it work. Alums have got to get it through their heads that there is a problem and it's not Dr. Limbert!

Ole Miss and MSU aren't having the identity crisis that most who aren't wearing blinders see. It might help "W" and Columbus relations if the school hadn't turned in to a commuter college. I've been on the "W" campus. It is a ghost town on weekends.

The alums need to start offering up solutions to keep the school viable. To do that you must first admit there are institutional problems. All I've heard is denials.

Those advocating a name change do so because they want the school to have the best chance at surviving.


Article Comment TL commented at 12/8/2009 10:41:00 PM:

Calvin, your comment sums up all that is wrong with the W. I think the "commuter college" comment is spot on. In my years in Columbus, I have noticed little interaction between the town and the college; it just seems to occupy it's own little space where the students and faculty sequester themselves. There should be several coffee shops, bookstores and small restaurants surrounding the campus, but the only thing nearby is Tampico Bay.


Article Comment Mark commented at 12/11/2009 5:21:00 AM:

The people are tired of the sqabbling of the hens and no longer care about The "W".


Article Comment TL commented at 12/11/2009 1:50:00 PM:

Mark.... you are right. The W has managed over the past several years to totally isolate itself from the community, so few of us even give a hoot about it anymore. What a waste, it is very sad.


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