Mary Washington College name change
May 11, 2003 11:51 AM   Subscribe

There's something about "Mary." The administration at Mary Washington College, ranked third in America this year among public liberal arts colleges by US News & World Report, is again trying to eliminate "Mary Washington" from it's name so they can have a name "without the female baggage." The adminstration cites problems with athletes' reactions to the name, but a student notes that "...if you change the name so you don't put off guys who don't like the idea of a school named Mary, you're not necessarily attracting the right kind of guy." I suggest the administration could use a refresher on the etymology of "alma mater."
posted by NortonDC (24 comments total)
Odd, I went to a college called "Queen Elizabeth" and it didn't have any effect on me, sweetie.
posted by Blue Stone at 12:00 PM on May 11, 2003

How stupid. There's numerous Saint Mary's, there's Notre Dame (Our Lady), there's the Carolina schools (granted the Carolinas were named after King Charles, but still, Carolina is better known now as a woman's name).

Sarah Lawrence, William and Mary, Agnes Scott, Seton Hall (named for Mother Seton)...Etc.
posted by padraigin at 12:05 PM on May 11, 2003

Beaver College Syndrome.
posted by aaron at 12:08 PM on May 11, 2003 [1 favorite]

let 'em change the name. to 'melvin'.
posted by quonsar at 12:23 PM on May 11, 2003

Idiots. If the school were named George Washington College and wasn't attracting enough women, they certainly wouldn't consider changing the name. 65:35 isn't even that unusual for a formerly all-female, liberal arts school--Vassar was something like 60:40 three years ago.
posted by hippugeek at 12:34 PM on May 11, 2003

Back in the real world... A college known as "University of Geico" does not have the stature as those institutions that pad names above. The actual name is just part of an overall image problem that this college is fighting just to survive.

Macon, Georgia had an old college that closed due to bankruptcy. Although I walked through the empty campus on a muggy Georgia summer afternoon, the feeling gave me chills.

So, to alumni of MWC afraid of diluting their degrees with a name change, consider how much more diluted their degrees would be from a non-existant college. Or worse still, give a call to alumni of Morris Brown College here in Atlanta and ask them how their degrees are faring from a college that lost its accreditation because of financial difficulties.
posted by mischief at 12:38 PM on May 11, 2003

Idiots. If the school were named George Washington College and wasn't attracting enough women, they certainly wouldn't consider changing the name. 65:35 isn't even that unusual for a formerly all-female, liberal arts school--Vassar was something like 60:40 three years ago.

It was closer to 65:35 the years I was there, shortly after they ended affirmative action for men. (No, I don't mean to start another AA thread.)

I agree that it's another symptom of women not being considered as valuable as men -- the response to sexism should be strong criticism and the lesson of a superior example, not this kind of kowtowing and playing along. (Why do collegiate athletic organizations even permit teams to refuse to play one another for stupid, bigoted reasons?) These days we could never expect to see a school given a new female name, as men don't hesitate to cry "reverse sexism" anymore.

Part of the problem, though, is the good old-fashioned stupidity inherent in human nature. However successful an enterprise may be, some people will consider that the success has been in spite of the things that makes it unique, not due to them. My father once told me a story about a bocce/pizza club in New York that became a popular hangout for young people who thought it was kitschy to watch the old Italian guys play bocce. Flushed with success, the owners ripped out the courts and put tables there so they could serve more people, and were forced to close shortly afterwards.

There are now more women in college and graduate and professional school than men, yet they think it's a problem that the name might be off-putting to the more Neanderthal-esque of our sex? Please.

On preview: mischief, read the friggin' article. Other than a small loss in state funding (compensated for by a comparable increase in private funding), the school is doing rather well at the moment, not fighting for its life.
posted by Epenthesis at 1:17 PM on May 11, 2003

In other news, Notre Dame University officials said "Female baggage? Mmmmyeahright!"
posted by alumshubby at 1:39 PM on May 11, 2003

Not to mention Marist...
posted by alumshubby at 1:40 PM on May 11, 2003

Area companies, including Geico insurance, help design the courses, which are taught at night by non-tenured teachers... Low costs at the Monroe Center, where teachers work in group spaces rather than separate offices, enable the program to pay for itself... Braymer and Anderson say there are no plans for teacher tenure at Monroe... Besides, Anderson said, Monroe teachers have "the best tenure of all, their excellent job performance" and a chance to interact with companies for which they might work later.

They can call it whatever they want, as long as it doesn't include "college" or "university." How about Geico Gender Neutral Exploitation Center for Cashing in and Selling Out, Inc.?
posted by Zurishaddai at 2:22 PM on May 11, 2003

After reading the article YET AGAIN, I still get the impression the school is having financial problems, or at the very least, growth problems, which are an extension of financial problems.
posted by mischief at 2:31 PM on May 11, 2003

I bet Aflac University would be a great party school.
posted by aaron at 2:59 PM on May 11, 2003

I like Bocce and I'm 25. Damn it behind the trend again.
posted by Spacelegoman at 3:11 PM on May 11, 2003

Hey Epenthesis, I was there too, about 20 years ago for two semesters. And I remember they were fussing about the name then, too. Although what really seemed to bother a lot of people at that time was the spinning wheel on the seal. Spinning wheels being soooooo girly, doncha know.
posted by JanetLand at 3:49 PM on May 11, 2003

See, I'm with hippugeek here.

I'm in my second year at the pleasantly genderless 'Bretton Hall College' of the University of Leeds, UK. It's the fine arts branch and, having picked up a Summer job in the housing department last year, I can tell you that the female:male ratio for the fresher year 2002 was 66:33. I worked it out.

That's two girls for every boy, baby. Which is exactly why I'll probably do my MA here...
posted by armoured-ant at 5:27 PM on May 11, 2003

I meant I was at Vassar, not MWU -- our school's actually named after a guy. (But he made his money as a brewer, so it's all good.)
posted by Epenthesis at 5:33 PM on May 11, 2003

That's two girls for every boy, baby. Which is exactly why I'll probably do my MA here...

Yeah, I seem to remember that 20 years ago at Mary Washington as well.
posted by JanetLand at 5:43 PM on May 11, 2003

Either way the students there will get over it. Or maybe go the hell away.

No offense to anyone who used to go to MWC, but a lot of the students at MWC are complete and utter asses to those of us who live in this area. Treating the local people who are not only your professors but, also those who make sure that college runs decently like morons and fools does not make the locals want to deal with you.

As for the name change, that's ridiculous. It's been Mary Washington College, it should remain that. It was a women's school and changing the name won't change that legacy. Not that I wouldn't like to see Monroe treated better. I live just around the corner from his birthplace and it's a fenced off area with a miniature version of the Washington Monument marking it. In my teenage years it was not fenced over and we used the entire area as a party grounds.

At least it's not another Washington and Lee (my high school and a University carry that name, as George Washington and Robert E Lee were born here.)

And GEICO is one of the largest employers in the Fredericksburg area. It has a major call center here as well as its mail processing center. I can't imagine anyone going against them, because if GEICO pulls out of the area the unemployment rate would skyrocket.
posted by SuzySmith at 7:43 PM on May 11, 2003

Colleges, companies and buildings from sea to shining sea bear the names of men, many long dead, and no one blinks. It is the rare school which bears the name of a woman, and in those cases, male students are likely to never spend time affiliated with another female-named institution throughout their careers. But if those four years are too much for their frail, ignorant male egos to handle, they can go elsewhere, and really should. In fact, it seems to me that a man who would avoid attending a school because of its name is probably not highed education material at all. Good riddance.
posted by Dreama at 8:36 PM on May 11, 2003

Another consideration would be whether someone wants to list Mary Washington College on a resume, particularly if he or she intends to live somewhere outside the DC area. How many job interviews would then start, "Who is Mary Washington?" ;-P
posted by mischief at 9:37 PM on May 11, 2003

How many job interviews would then start, "Who is Mary Washington?"

Not many, mischief. "Mary Washington" is a familiar name to a lot of Americans, and should be fairly self-explanatory to the rest. Any large employer in Virginia is going to be familiar with MWC, and it's respected--deservedly--nationwide by people who have any knowledge of liberal arts schools.

I sound like a brochure.
posted by hippugeek at 10:11 PM on May 11, 2003

How many job interviews start "Who is Robert Morris?" "Who is Mary Baldwin?" "Who is William Jewell?" "So you make cakes or, what?" "Oh, so you're a, well, uh, you went to a Mennonite college? Mennonites have colleges?"

Wondering what future idiot interviewers might think of the name of your college and not the quality of the education that you received there is as stupid as the MWC coach who claims that teams avoid playing Mary Washington because they might lose to a "girl" team. (I doubt that claim highly -- and if its true, it makes me worry about the future in heretofore unimagined ways.)
posted by Dreama at 10:22 PM on May 11, 2003

bretton hall , huh ?
colour me enrolled !
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:03 AM on May 12, 2003

Wow. Refreshing to actually see sexism so bald and out in the open. Like a breath of fresh air, really.

Based on this article, let's hypothesize a bit. Fact: there are more female undergraduates than male undergraduates at US universities. Fact: almost all US universities (with the exception of the extremely well-funded Ivy types) are expanding their "professional" offerings in order to "meet the needs" of the business community and rake in loads of cash, while simultaneously scaling back offerings in the Humanities and pure sciences.

Tentative conclusion: new professional schools like the Monroe center are being built to lure men back to academia, as the humanities have become too feminized by the influx of female undergrads in the last 20+ years. YMMV.
posted by junkbox at 7:13 AM on May 12, 2003

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