Well, here we are, sitting on the precipice of the “Should the W change its name?” debate once more. As a graduate of the W, the son of an alum of the W, a former employee of the W, and a former resident of Columbus for nearly a decade, I have more than just a vested interest in the matter.
Recently, the W sent out an email survey where anonymous views and opinions could be shared on the proposed names a committee has selected as potential new names. It appears someone just Googled “Public Domain College Names” and decided to give us quite generic offerings. I’m not opposed to a geotag name, but let’s be real: All the “good” names for schools with a geographic location in the state of Mississippi have been taken, either by an existing college/university or by a community college.
Unlike alums from Mississippi State or That School In Oxford, we represent not just our classes, but the W. Our friendships and lives intersect and weave throughout decades, not just the people we went to school with. Yes, I know and am friends with the people from my Master’s program at MSU, but that’s it. Ask me to name anyone else at MSU at the time, or anyone who graduated decades before me, and all you’ll get is a blank stare. If you’re a graduate of the W, you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. And many of us choose to revel in the fact we have a shared history with each other; we’re more than just a group of people who gather en masse during Saturdays in the fall to cheer on our school. We have given sweat equity every time the spectre of closure/merger comes up. We have been evangelists for the liberal arts school that helped us blossom and become the people we were meant to be. We — and the W — are stronger for our bonds that hold us together.
Names have meaning. Names have power. I worked in Admissions and Enrollment Management for five years at the W. I well remember the struggle, the eye rolls, and the laughter from prospective students — but I also recall the looks of hope, the smiles, and the visible release of tension in the body language of prospective students when they learned there was a place where they could be free to be themselves.
That is why I would prefer to see the next iteration of the W continue to BE the W, focusing on our legacy and not our address. Yes; it’s going to be difficult to find a name that makes sense, looks good, sounds good, and doesn’t seem like we are forcing a square peg into a round hole JUST to keep “the W” in the name.
I would challenge anyone at the W who is in a position to affect the direction of the name change to remember Who We are. We are the W. We aren’t “Mississippi University for Whoever.” We aren’t “Mississippi University in Possum Town.” We aren’t “Not Quite Mississippi State.”
The W is legacy. Without that, we ARE just another college.
Sonny Lemmons, Center Valley, Penn.
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