Eleven years ago, I was a senior at Columbus High School. I hadn’t the slightest idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. My guidance counselor shot down my dreams of attending Morehouse College in Atlanta. She told me that I didn’t have the necessary requirements to gain a full scholarship to the liberal arts college for African-American men. So I felt helpless, disheartened and depressed about my prospects of going to college. Ironically, she told me that I should attend Mississippi University for Women, a school traditionally attended by women, because of my father’s current employment there, which would grant me a deduction off my tuition/dorm fees, its inexpensive cost and its close proximity to home.
I attended class day along with the rest of my fellow senior classmates on a Thursday night before graduation. I sat on the gym floor along with my peers. My parents were in the stands sitting proudly. I remember my name being called to receive a partial scholarship from MUW. As I got up to walk forward and receive my honor, laughter spread around me. To my peers and the people present I was a joke. I was a man about to attend MUW. Funny how some things never change.
In 2003, I earned my degree from MUW, and I still find myself having to explain how a male attended a women’s college, routinely ending with a round of laughs. I’m proud that I attended MUW and earned a diploma in journalism. It has garnered me two great jobs in a six-year span. My first job was at MUW, serving as graphic designer in the Office of Public Affairs. My second and current job is as marketing director for Keep Tennessee Beautiful, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. These achievements would not have been met without the knowledge and experiences I gained at MUW. For that, I will always have positive views of the institution.
For all of its glory, prestige and history, there is one thing MUW can’t change, and that is perception — the perception that it’s a women’s school. That perception is strong and broad.
The reality is that fine individuals of both genders experience great careers after graduating from MUW. I know many alumni who are doing quite well. However, enrollment is not high enough, which means there are major problems.
MUW president Claudia Limbert has proposed a name change, which she feels will help eradicate this problem. I support this.
Life is all about change. Over the years I’ve heard the grumblings over a possible name change from both sides of this decision. Facts show that a name change can help enrollment increase and most importantly help MUW survive and prosper. If alumni love MUW they will want this to happen, personal feelings set aside.
In our hearts, MUW will always be whatever our memories hold of it. No one can take those memories away. However, the institution can be taken away from us. I urge you to show support for Dr. Limbert’s decision instead of negativity. I encourage both female and male alumni to unite together for a change, instead of hearing a cry for just “W Gals” to rally together.
I remember the days when the tagline at MUW was “And Smart Men Too.” Currently, it is “A Tradition of Excellence for Women and Men.” These phrases are outdated and no longer work. It is time for a change at MUW. Trust me; you will never lose MUW in your thoughts and hearts, but you may lose MUW, the institution, if disagreements continue to exist.
Why would anybody fight so hard against something they love? Current and future students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community need MUW. Please support the name change to Reneau University.
If change doesn’t come, the joke would now be on all of us if we let our beloved institution fall.
Edmond McDavis III