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Mississippi University for Women name change might fall through amid backlash

Mississippi University for Women is once again looking for a new name after 41 years of being coeducational (Photo courtesy of MUW)

The Mississippi University for Women may be reevaluating its name of the future.

Following heavy backlash to the coeducational institution’s proposed name change to Mississippi Brightwell University, which officials announced earlier this week, President Nora Miller has decided to evaluate all feedback before moving forward with the process.

In an email to alumni obtained by SuperTalk Mississippi News, Miller wrote the following:

“As we undertake this meaningful journey together, I want to acknowledge that I am aware of the discourse surrounding our institution’s new proposed name. I want you to know that we remain fully committed to a name change that aligns with our mission and diverse community and that also reflects our historical legacy of empowerment while evolving to provide a comprehensive and inclusive learning experience for everyone.

“As we navigate this significant transition, I am actively reviewing all feedback. I value your insights and experiences in this process. Our commitment to rebranding is unwavering, as we recognize the importance of a name that encapsulates our dedication to inclusivity and excellence in serving future populations. This change is a step toward ensuring that our identity as an institution is in harmony with our values and the diverse community we serve. I appreciate your patience and support.”

While no timetable was set by Miller, MUW will need to agree on a name within the next month if they hope to have the rebranding in place by the 2024-25 academic year. Since it is a public institution, both chambers of the legislature and Gov. Tate Reeves must approve the change. Lawmakers have a deadline for general bills on Feb. 14.

What’s wrong with Mississippi Brightwell University?

As Miller and company have continued to vouch that the proposed name pays homage to the school motto, “We study for light to bless with light,” a flurry of critics has hit social media to express their disapproval of the name change.

While some opposition is against a new name completely, most critics have found the proposed name to be an overall poor choice. One user pointed out that Brightwell University was not one of the top vote-getters in a survey conducted by the school last summer. Of the 4,300 plus responses, the University of Northern Mississippi and Callaway State University were the most popular.

Miller explained along with the initial announcement that neither would work as the naming task force had been instructed not to use compass points or historical names. Callaway State University is in reference to founder Mary J.S. Callaway.

“Going into the final meeting, the task force had already made some key decisions based on feedback received throughout the process,” Miller said. “The first was not to use compass points. Alumni and our faculty feel very strongly that these types of names do not reflect our unique qualities and the personal relationships that we have with our students. Directional names could also easily be confused with surrounding and competing community colleges.”

“We decided not to use a family or historic name. Institutions are going away from this and there’s a risk of going back in history or forward to future generations.”

Another user requested that MUW be changed to Welty University in honor of the school’s most famous alumnus, short story writer and novelist Eudora Welty. But Miller shut down this idea, pointing back to the task force’s issue with namesake schools while also admitting that they purposefully avoided any names that began with the letter “W.”

“We also decided not to use a ‘W.’ We were founded as the first state-supported college for women in this country, and for us, our ‘W’ will stand for women,” Miller continued. “The university will not diminish that historic finding by grasping for another ‘W’ word.”

The strangest complaint may have come from one user who said the term “Brightwell” refers to a sex addict, according to Urban Dictionary. The internet slang source has since removed the definition in its entirety.

Will lawmakers vote in favor of Mississippi Brightwell University?

Say Miller and the task force plan to move forward with Mississippi Brightwell University, multiple lawmakers have told SuperTalk Mississippi News that while they have not made any personal decisions as to whether they would vote in favor of the proposed name, most of the feedback they have received so far about the name at hand has not been positive.

The silver lining is that those same lawmakers feel confident that a name with more universal support would pass both chambers with ease, citing that MUW has been coeducational for over four decades now.

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