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HomeGeneralMississippi University To Drop "Women" From Its Name

Mississippi University To Drop “Women” From Its Name

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A picture of Mississippi University for women
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Mississippi University for Women (MUW), through its leaders, made a new proposal on Tuesday, February 13, 2024, to drop “Women” from its name. The school aims to shed the gender-specific name to aid enrollment. However, alumni who fondly call their alma mater “The W” are not taking the proposal kindly. 

The public institution would become the Wynbridge State University of Mississippi. However, it would still market itself as “The W” if legislators approve the plan. The school’s name change is poised to happen in July 2024. According to reports, it’s the second time MUW leaders have tried renaming the university in Columbus this year. 

MUW has enrolled male students since 1982, and about 22% of the current 2,230 population are male. However, university leaders claim having “women” in the name complicates the recruiting process. Hence, the school attempted a name change in January 2024.

Unfortunately, the news sparked outrage among the university alums. As a result, the university backtracked from a proposed new name it unveiled in January, Mississippi Brightwell University. “We are grateful to our alumni and friends of the university,” said the university’s president, Nora Miller.

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“For reminding us that our identity as ‘The W’ has both an enduring legacy and the flexibility to carry our institution into the future.” Miller added, “By enshrining our commitment to ‘The W’ in the law.” She continued, “We promise our community that graduates past, present, and future will remain united.”

Before the proposal became public, Miller announced a university task force to examine a name change in 2022. This development came months after the university’s Dean’s Council sent her a letter saying the current name presents “challenges.”

Amanda Clay Powers, the university’s dean of library services and co-chair of the naming task force, spoke about the proposed name. During a press briefing, Powers said Wynbridge “creatively pairs the Old English word for ‘W.'” She claims it uses “it as a ‘bridge’ that connects past, present and future W graduates.”

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“With our commitment to keeping ‘The W,’ we feel this is the perfect name for the university,” Powers said in the university’s news release. “It looks back at our illustrious past as the first publicly supported university for women, keeping our tradition of looking forward into the future.” 

Like in January, previous attempts to remove “women” from the name, including in 2009, have brought intense backlash from alumni. The president of MUW in 2009, Claudia Limbert, proposed changing the name to Reneau University to honor Sallie Reneau. 

Reneau wrote to the Mississippi governor in the mid-19th century to propose a public college for women. Hence, Limbert saw it as an opportunity to honor her. However, that renaming effort fizzled amid opposition from outspoken graduates.

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MUW was chartered in 1884 as an industrial institute and college. Also, it was on the campus of an existing private school, Columbus Female Institute. The college’s original mission was to provide women with higher education and vocational training. However, over the years, the school started enrolling men. 

Afterward, the school’s name changed to Mississippi State College for Women in 1920. Over fifty years later, it became Mississippi University for Women in 1974. The recent renaming proposal is off to a rough start. However, the university’s leaders hope the legislators will approve the proposal.

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