Senate panel rejects MUW’s name change proposal

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Legislation that could have led to a new name for Mississippi University for Women got no support Monday in a Senate committee despite dire warnings about what might happen if the name isn’t changed.
“Inaction on this bill will very likely lead to the end of MUW as we know it,” said College Board President Scott Ross of West Point.
Senate Universities and Colleges Chair Doug Davis, R-Hernando, held a hearing on the issue where MUW alumni and other opponents of a name change were allowed to speak, as were supporters.
Those backing the name change included Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds; elected officials in Columbus, where the school is located; and business groups, both in the Columbus area and the statewide Mississippi Economic Council.
At the end of the hearing, Davis brought the bill up for consideration, but no member voiced support for the proposal, meaning it is most likely dead for the session. Today is the deadline for bills to be passed out of committee in the originating chamber. The House is not expected to take up the proposal.
The same fate probably awaits Gov. Haley Barbour’s proposal to merge some of the state’s eight public universities in an effort to save funds during the current budget crisis.
The bill would have allowed the board to change MUW’s name. Ross and Bounds said, however, that the 12 board members had not made any decision whether to change the name and if so to what.
Last year, MUW President Claudia Limbert, who is stepping down later this year, recommended that the name be changed to Reneau University in honor of a supporter of women’s higher education.
During Monday’s hearing, Bounds said the current name makes it difficult to attract students because the name implies it is a women-only school, though it became coed in the early 1980s.
But MUW supporters said the problem is not the name.
“Marketing is our problem,” said Anne Franklin Lamar of Greenville, who graduated last year from MUW and was a class president. “We have marketed it in a very small region.”
Bounds said MUW has not displayed the ability to grow. He said he would meet with university leaders to look for ways to help the school deal with budget cuts, but said more cuts “without impacting quality” would be difficult.

Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.