January 7, 2010 9:36:00 AM
Jason Browne - [email protected]
The Friends of The W are headed to Jackson.
The joint venture between Mississippi University for Women''s two alumni associations will convene Monday in Jackson for Capitol Day, a dual event aimed at showing legislators the unity behind MUW.
The first event, a meet-and-greet with legislators, will take place from 3-5 p.m. in the first floor rotunda at the Capitol building. The second, a reception honoring legislators, will be held at the Old Capitol Inn from 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Tickets for the reception are $25 for friends and alums, $10 for faculty and staff and MUW students with I.D.
Betty Ruth Hawkins of Waveland, an Friends of The W member and lead organizer for Capitol Day, said the trip will give MUW supporters a chance to speak with the lawmakers who will decide the school''s fate and "show the strength of support The W has."
The tradition has been carried on by MUW''s charter alumni group, Mississippi''s First Alumnae Association, since the 1970s, but takes on special meaning this year. Whereas in the past the event has primarily given MUW alums the chance to thank legislators for their work, this year will focus on keeping the school independent.
"The message we want to get across to legislators is there is a willingness to support The W as a healthy institution. We don''t see merger as a benefit to The W," said Hawkins.
Gov. Haley Barbour recommended MUW merge with Mississippi State University in an effort to trim the state''s budget deficit. He also recommended Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State be merged into Jackson State to save money by eliminating administration positions, a move Barbour claims would save $35 million over the next two years.
"The numbers already show there''s no real budget savings in such mergers," said Linda Ross-Aldy, a Friends of The W member from Jackson. "We''re making sure (legislators) know that we do not believe any kind of merger would be beneficial."
The Friends of The W will turn out in force Monday, thanks in part to a 54-passenger charter bus funded by Mississippi''s First Alumnae Association, the Columbus Town and Tower Club and private donations.
Gail Laws, an Friends of The W member from Columbus, helped secure the bus to ferry Columbus attendees to Jackson. A 24-person bus was originally planned but Laws said so many people wanted to go that a bigger bus had to be chartered.
Multiple vans and SUVs will also carpool to Jackson. Laws said the response to the trip has been overwhelming.
"I think everybody is just really interested in preserving and maintaining The W''s mission as a free-standing university," she said.
While Mississippi''s First Alumnae Association and the current MUW Alumni Association have come together to fight a merger, Sen. Doug Davis, R-Hernando, may bring up one of the issues which has long divided the two groups.
Davis, chair of the Universities and Colleges Committee, is considering introducing legislation giving the state College Board the power to change the name of universities.
MUW President Claudia Limbert has proposed the school''s name be changed to Reneau University, a move Mississippi''s First Alumnae Association ardently opposes.
Limbert severed the university''s ties with the former MUW Alumnae Association in 2007. After a Supreme Court ruling upholding the disaffiliation, the group changed its name to Mississippi''s First Alumnae Association.
Davis is gauging community support for a name change and determining how it will benefit MUW. His decision to propose the legislation hinges on what''s best for the school.
"Ultimately, we want to make sure the campus over there is active and vital and has the resources they need to be a competing university in this state and region," said Davis.
A decision on merging MUW and MSU would also be made with both schools'' best interests at heart, he said.
"As far as a merger discussion, those are much more complicated. But ultimately the same factors will be considered," Davis noted. "What''s best for students and what would best make (the combined schools) a competitive entity?"