February 19, 2010 10:59:00 AM
Is this the beginning of the end for The W?
As much as we might hope otherwise, it would appear so. The state College Board on Thursday charged Mississippi State University and Mississippi University for Women to explore consolidating operations.
Also Thursday, two of The W''s marquee programs -- nursing and culinary arts -- were melded to State programs. Now, an undergraduate at Mississippi State who is admitted to The W''s nursing school can graduate with a degree from State, as well as one from The W. And a new degree, culinology, blends courses from MSU''s food science department and ones from MUW''s Culinary Arts Institute -- also leading to a degree from MSU, as well as one from The W.
MUW President Claudia Limbert insists the process of finding savings on the business side, and these academic collaborations with State, are "not a merger."
If they aren''t a merger, then what are they?
Consolidating operations, for example, could mean combining the two schools'' human resources, physical plant, and other departments into one, which would serve both schools. If that is the end result of this process, it certainly sounds an awful lot like a merger.
And, allowing students at Mississippi State to transfer to The W and graduate with a State degree sounds very much like a merger, too.
We believe that''s where this process is heading.
A merger between the two schools won''t happen overnight -- it appears The W will die a death of a thousand cuts. An employee here, a department there. A degree here, one there. Only the Legislature can revoke a school''s charter. But the two could consolidate to the point that they were essentially two campuses of the same school -- it''s a matter of how far the College Board is willing to go.
A few weeks ago, alumni who opposed a name change for The W, who successfully lobbied the Legislature to allow the move to die, cheered that they "won" -- that they saved their beloved school.
We warned that they were "loving it to death."
The events of Thursday show that they may very well have.
A name change wouldn''t cure all of the school''s ills, but it was The W''s best shot to remain relevant and independent, and breathe new life into the state''s smallest university.
Now, it appears the College Board, which had supported a name change, has cut bait, and is pursuing consolidation instead.
Perhaps this fact is now clear to those who wanted The W to remain unchanged: With its small enrollment and lack of funding, remaining the same was never an option.
Merger? Consolidation? Whatever you want to call it, The W has started down a road that will change it forever.