DEBBIE MONTGOMERY: One woman’s beginnings rely on wit, determination and $

Imagine the following. You begin a new job. It’s an adjustment – moving, finding your way around, learning the staff, meeting new people in your new hometown. Then smack! You’re blind-sided.

A couple of your daughters want to change their name. A tornado hits. Even before the tornado, the family finances are a mess. You have to pull the kids out of the softball league, basketball games and volleyball matches. No more tennis, either.

Oh, did I mention the youngest daughters want to appear on a television show: Sex in the Itty Bitty City?

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Ah, the life of a university president, specifically Claudia Limbert at Mississippi University for Women. Right off the bat Limbert knew she was going to have to address the name of my alma mater. That alone was enough to ingest and tackle – add the budget woes, decreasing enrollment and departing faculty.

We haven’t had time to fully introduce dear Claudia to the legislators, Mississippi history (The W’s alone is mind-boggling), Southern antics, and then boom! A Class 3 tornado hits, destroying buildings, irreplaceable artwork and artifacts, and disrupting classes two weeks before exams.

She’s six months into the new job. Where does she begin? One step at a time. The Pennsylvania transplant is doing well, thank you.

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It can’t be easy, though. Alumni are second-guessing every decision, one IHL board member wants to merge the institution with Mississippi State, and students are curious why the elimination of collegiate sports was announced while nary a student was on campus (they were home for the Christmas holidays).

I don’t know all the details nor can I explain the underlying decision-making process. But I speak as an alum, a former staff employee and, most recently, as an instructor: it’s a good institution and it provides education to some valuable Mississippians and some valuable out-of-state folks (men included).

Should the name be changed to Welty University or Mississippi University at Columbus?

Why eliminate athletics? The last time I attended a Blues basketball game, there were fewer than 100 people in Pohl Gym. That included both teams, officials and spectators. It’s hard to operate an athletic program with a $700,000 budget when in actuality you need at least $1 million. You need your student body and alumni to support the teams, too.

The elimination of collegiate sports will enable the university to turn its attention to providing all students with a fitness center. Did Title IX just take two steps backwards?

How will the university recover from such massive destruction of its beautiful campus?

How can we stop the arterial mass exodus of good faculty and staff?

All of the questions, every single one of them – hinges on money. Have you read the headlines? Mississippi has no money.

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Dr. Limbert’s decision not to allow MTV to interview students on campus for its upcoming reality show “Sex in the Itty Bitty City” is not a reason for outcry.

Alumni should be far more concerned with the “Budget Woes in the State Capitol” show under way Tuesday. We may not have to worry about what to call the university or where students jog and lift weights.

The Legislature may decide for us. The damage could be more than a Class 3 tornado.

Good luck, Dr. Limbert. Keep up the good work.

Debbie Montgomery is the news editor at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at

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