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‘The W’ Alum Introduces Bill to Rename University

Rep. Donnie Scoggin asks a question at a joint hearing
Mississippi House Rep. Donnie Scoggin, an Ellisville Republican and MUW alumnus, authored a bill to amend the name of Mississippi University for Women to Wynbridge State University of Mississippi. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Less than 48 hours after Mississippi University for Women President Nora Miller announced Wynbridge State University of Mississippi as the institution’s new proposed name, state lawmakers introduced a bill to establish “The W” as its official moniker.

Mississippi House Rep. Donnie Scoggin, an Ellisville Republican and MUW alumnus, authored House Bill 1155 to “amend the name of ‘Mississippi University for Women’ to ‘The W,’ with official documents denoting the name as ‘Wynbridge State University of Mississippi.’” The bill lists Rep. Kabir Karriem, D-Columbus, as an additional author. Karriem’s district is in Lowndes County, where MUW is located.

“This bill embodies the university’s promise to its alumni to uphold our illustrious history while advancing into the future,” Miller said in a university press release.

Miller, the university’s first alumni president, has led the school since 2018 and began leading efforts to study a name change in 2022. She said the name change is necessary to reflect the school’s inclusivity.

The president appointed a Naming Task Force that spent more than 18 months selecting a new name for the university. Miller first announced Brightwell University as the new proposed name on Jan. 8. Community members and alumni quickly spoke out against that name and the process the Naming Task Force used in its selection.

The public outcry prompted officials to reverse the decision and take the name Brightwell off the table. Miller said feedback showed that alumni wanted a name that better reflected the history of the university and its beloved nickname, “The W.” A group of alumni even presented a proposal to the board to make the nickname the university’s permanent name.

“Regardless of the name, it’ll always be ‘The W, Columbus, Miss., Mayor Keith Gaskin told those gathered at the February 14, 2023 press conference announcing Wynbridge State University of Mississippi. Photo by Heather Harrison

Community members were asked to submit new name suggestions for consideration. The task force then sent surveys to university stakeholders asking for their input on three chosen names – Wynbridge University, Welbright University and Wynbright University. Miller told the Mississippi Free Press that there was a highly positive response for Wynbridge State University.

“The first part of the name, Wyn, is old English for the letter W. And the latter part, bridge, connects the past to the future—connects our alumni to our students and connects our campus to the community,” Miller told those gathered during the Feb. 14 press conference. “… After all, the W bridges us together.”

Mississippi House Rep. Andy Boyd, D-Columbus, said he understands the need for a more inclusive name.

“Mississippi University for Women began accepting men in 1982. The name in and of itself is confusing to potential students,” Boyd said in the press release. “I am for the new name proposed as it puts into law ‘The W’ as well as the formal name, Wynbridge State University of Mississippi. I have come to appreciate alumni passion for The W.”

Mississippi University for Women opened in 1884 as the Mississippi Industrial Institute and College for the Education of White Girls, the first publicly funded college for women in the United States. The school operated exclusively for white women for the first 82 years. In 1920, the name changed to Mississippi State College for Women and eventually Mississippi University for Women. MUW began accepting Black women in 1966 and officially became coeducational in 1982.

“Regardless of the name, it’ll always be ‘The W,’” Columbus, Miss., Mayor Keith Gaskin told the crowd during the Feb. 14 press conference.

Both chambers of the Legislature must pass the bill for Gov. Tate Reeves to sign into law before the name change can take effect. The deadline for committees to report general bills and constitutional amendments originating in their own chambers is March 5.

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