So now what? Latest attempt at a name change is yet another ‘L’ for the ‘W’

One of Mississippi’s public universities is pausing its effort to switch to a name that doesn’t include the word “Women.”

The president of Mississippi University for Women, Nora Miller, said in a statement Wednesday that students, alumni and others should have more discussion about the matter.

The university in Columbus has enrolled men since 1982, and about about 22% of the current 2,230 students are male. But university leaders say having “women” in the name makes recruiting more difficult.

Miller graduated from MUW and said she acknowledges “the challenges, the missteps, the frustrations, and the uncertainties” caused by efforts to rebrand.

“While we remain committed to a future name change, we will regroup and re-examine our processes, ways of engaging our alumni base, and the many needs surrounding finding a name that captures the unique history as well as the contemporary qualities of our university,” Miller wrote.

A covered bench at the Mississippi University for Women denotes the coed student body makeup of the Columbus campus.
A covered bench at the Mississippi University for Women denotes the coed student body makeup of the Columbus campus.

Her statement came eight days after Miller announced the school would seek legislative approval to become Wynbridge State University of Mississippi — a name that would still allow marketing under a longtime nickname, “The W.”

Amanda Clay Powers, the university’s dean of library services and co-chair of the naming task force, said Feb. 13 that Wynbridge “creatively pairs the Old English word for ‘W,’ using it as a ‘bridge’ that connects past, present and future W graduates.”

Backlash by alumni caused university officials to backtrack from another proposed name unveiled in January, Mississippi Brightwell University.

In 2022, Miller announced a task force to examine a name change, months after the university’s Deans Council sent her a letter saying the current name presents “challenges.”

Alumni have squelched previous renaming efforts.

The university’s president in 2009, Claudia Limbert, proposed changing to Reneau University to honor Sallie Reneau, who wrote to the Mississippi governor in the mid-19th century to propose a public college for women.

The school was chartered in 1884 as Industrial Institute and College and was on the campus of an existing private school, Columbus Female Institute. The original mission of the college was to provide higher education and vocational training for women.

In 1920, the name changed to Mississippi State College for Women, and in 1974 it became Mississippi University for Women.