COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) — Forty years after Mississippi University for Women started enrolling men, its president says the school should consider choosing a more inclusive name.
Previous attempts to remove “women” from the name, including the most recent one in 2009, have brought strong backlash from alumni of the school, nicknamed the W.
Men make up about 18% of the 2,700 students at MUW. In a letter to alumni, President Nora Miller said the university is creating a task force to examine a name change, the Commercial Dispatch reported.
Miller said she received a letter in May from the Deans Council at the university, acknowledging the current name presents “challenges.”
“I assure you, no matter what happens, we maintain our historic commitment to academic and leadership development for women, forever embracing our status as the first state-supported college for women in the United States,” Miller wrote in the letter sent Sept. 28.
The president of MUW in 2009, Claudia Limbert, proposed changing the name 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. That renaming effort fizzled amid opposition from outspoken graduates.
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 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.
Miller said the task force will soon begin sessions to hear from faculty, staff, students, alumni and other stakeholders.
Miller has been president since 2018 and has served since 2001 in various roles at MUW, including senior vice president for administration and chief financial officer.
“As our first alumni president, I too feel the urgency to do all we can to honor our history while clearing barriers to our future,” Miller said. “I acknowledge that should a new name be recommended, it will be an emotional issue for some; however, it is imperative that we sincerely consider all opportunities that will strengthen our position and allow us to better fulfill our mission.”