The vote drew mixed reactions from alumni/ae, university trustees, Columbus area officials and others interested in the school’s survival.
We hope Institutions of Higher Learning trustees’ president Scott Ross, West Point, is wrong in his prediction that not changing the name means the death of the school.
The W, as its name suggests, was until the 1980s an all-women’s school – the oldest state-supported women’s college in the nation. Then, The W changed with the times when, after a lawsuit, it became fully coeducational. The W would be about 20 percent smaller if men weren’t enrolled.
MUW’s enrollment increased about 4.8 percent in the fall 2009 semester, with a student headcount of 2,478. Still, that is below MUW’s highest full-time enrollment, 2,595 in 1976.
“While our headcount is up almost 5 percent, our Full-time Equivalency enrollment is up almost 6 percent, which is a truer measure of the strength of our enrollment growth,” Vice President Bucky Wesley said in an interview in late 2009.
The W clearly is caught between competing internal forces – divisions among its own alumni/ae and students, some of whom want the name changed, as proposed, to Reneau University, and an opposite faction seeking to stay with MUW.
The W’s supporters will find institutional survival difficult until ranks close and make its strength paramount.
The W has had its highest headcount enrollment since admitting men, suggesting that the name is not the only supposed impediment to growth. However, The W’s own 2009 enrollment plan sets a 2013 enrollment goal of 4,500 students, about 2,000 students larger than this year.
That strategy is based on “(shifting) the image of MUW within traditional student markets.”
In other words, change the name, and shift away from history as an all-women’s school. Sever the no-longer-helpful-vestiges of a 19th century existence. Focus on the future, not the past.
The W’s history as an all-women’s school is lofty and durable, but that’s not its future.
We hope the IHL trustees move forward and sustain a name change as a live issue. A Senate committee, or even the whole Legislature, is a less than ideal forum for changing anything with vocal special interests attached to it, but persistence sometimes pays off, even with reluctant legislators.