Steve Mullen (in his Wednesday column) finds it odd that MUW Alumnae send cakes to Mississippi legislators, and he wonders what the secret ingredient might be. I”ve heard that story, and I have a good idea what it is. It isn”t sugar, as Mr. Mullen surmises. I”ve also been to Jackson on the opening day of the legislature and seen some of the other gifts given to our representatives, I assume by lobbyists. They were nothing major, just coffee cups, chocolate, and the like. Some were sweet, some were useful, but I doubt any sent as powerful a message as the W cakes that alumnae bake.
Those cakes are a vivid reminder of other times when The W faced similar threats and alumnae turned out at the Capitol in droves to lobby for their school. They are a symbol of the dedication and perseverance of the Long Blue Line. I don”t know if Mr. Mullen has ever baked a cake from scratch, but as I understand it, these cakes are not store-bought, nor do they come from a box; these cakes are made by hand and lavished with care. They send the message that W alums are willing to do whatever it takes to save their school. I have heard that each of Mississippi”s 174 legislators receives one. That”s a lot of cakes!
They represent more than a small group of “little old ladies.” It takes a lot of people of all ages to deliver that many cakes on the same day, and there is method to the madness. MUW alums have organized it so someone in each legislator”s district sends the cake as a personal message. This is a reminder that there are W alums in every county and every district of the state, they are organized, they are politically savvy, and they and their friends and families vote.
MUW alums are not shrill harpies who have their alma mater in their clutches ready to “love it to death,” as they have been portrayed. Rather, they are intelligent, professional women and men, who make us proud every day. I have seen recent graduates and even graduating seniors who have become involved and are extending their education with this real-world political experience. It is clear they have the drive and the will to succeed. Perhaps one will become Mississippi”s first woman governor or U.S. senator.
Yet Mr. Mullen is right about one thing. Now is the time to focus on MUW”s future. What he doesn”t mention is that the “Friends of the W,” including both groups of alums, has come together to do just that. While fighting for The W in the Legislature, this group has already begun a capital campaign to raise much needed scholarship and operating funds. They have many other ideas of ways they can help their school, while keeping a watchful eye on the Legislature to be sure any issues don”t resurface and to be sure that MUW receives adequate and fair funding.
Now is the time for the MUW faculty, staff, and administration, as well as community leaders, to get behind these efforts and add constructive ideas of our own. Painting gloom and doom scenarios will do nothing to save The W and will only weaken its position. Clearly, the budget situation is grim, yet that is true for all state agencies in Mississippi and in many other states. MUW can and will survive, and if we work together we can emerge from this financial crisis stronger than ever. The organization and commitment of MUW”s alums should serve as an inspiration. Maybe we should all be baking cakes or doing something equally proactive and creative.
The writer is a professor of English at Mississippi University for Women.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.