UMWEAGLEBy Peter Galuszka

I had to swallow my bile when I read a recent post by James A. Bacon that the University of Mary Washington is not a “prestige institution with strong pricing power and a large backlog of students clamoring to get in.”

The arrogance of that statement is stunning as is its underlying sexism. I speak as a parent of an Eagle, my daughter, who was a National Honor Society high school student, chose Mary Wash, had a great experience and graduated magna cum laude with a double major.

As a Hoo, Bacon  is surprisingly  ignorant of Mary Wash’s history. Believe it or not, it was considered the “female” part of the grand University of Virginia, which back in the day was so sexist as a public school it relegated women to limited positions, such as nursing, on the Charlottesville campus.

An example is my cousin-in-law who now lives in Tennessee. A Richmonder by birth, she went to Mary Wash (not a “prestige” institution) because that’s what bright young women did back in the 1950s. She then transferred to Mr. Jefferson’s University where she got a nursing degree and enjoyed long career in nursing and health care management before retiring.

Along the way, she married my cousin, a Hoo Class of 1966 back when it was all male and the guys trotted from class to class to beer bust dressed up in preppie herringbone jackets and ties. Female companionship was available only via road trips to Longwood or Sweetbriar or (heavens forbid!) Mary Wash.

So where the hell does Bacon come off with his dismissive and insulting comment? He also includes Christopher Newport University as lacking in “prestige” even though it is one of the best, up-and-coming public schools in Virginia. When I need political analysis I often call Steve Farsnworth at Mary Wash or Quentin Kidd at CNU. Next time I talk to them, I will tell them that they lack “prestige.”

Granted, Mary Wash has an acceptance rate of 80 percent. But Virginia Tech has an acceptance rate of 70 percent. VCU’s is 64 percent. These are not as selective as  U.Va’s which has a rate of 30 percent. (I have another daughter at the school). So what?

As for me, I graduated from Tufts University (acceptance rate of 17 percent) but I am sure Mr. Bacon will point out that Tufts is considered a “safety” school for kids not bright enough to get into Harvard or Yale.

I call on Eagles everywhere to protest Bacon’s snobbery.  Phone me and I will give you his address.

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14 responses to “Eagles Soar Over Turkeys!”

  1. UMW is a favorite of the middle class not only in Va but it draws a fair amount from the North East, New Jersey, etc… and I have family that graduated there.

    It does have a troubling recent behavior of getting involved in re-development of an adjacent business district where it put up an apartment-style dorm. The shopping center has a Giant and a Marriott ..restaurants, etc.

    it’s a successful venture and a definite plus for the area but I worry about the debt it has and whether the college itself or the state has financial responsibility.

    Jim pointed out the debt situation with UMW.. and I’m not sure if this project is part of that debt or separate and if separate who is holding the bonds.

    at any rate – UMW is well-loved in Fredericksburg and yes – it used to be part of UVA before it became independent.

    One more thing – Every year, starting in January – they do a lecture series open to the community called Great Lives where they have speakers and authors from all over the country and give a presentation of a famous person from Robert E. Lee to Yogi Berra to the Lovings of Virginia.

    They do it in a 3000 seat auditorium that easily gets more than half full on most nights… folks make a night of it – going to dinner then coming to the lecture.

    I think Bacon betrayed a view that plays into expensive Universities when he said “prestige”. In the case of UMW, as Peter knows, it’s relatively affordable (but still too high) – compared to the “brand name” guys.

    and as I have been pointing out – people have to decide what they are really after in a College – because there many Plain Jane colleges that have quality programs for much, much less than the brand name guys so it’s kinda hard listening to the bitching and moaning here.. it’s like folks complaining about the cost of Cadillacs rather than thinking Corolla.

  2. LifeOnTheFallLine Avatar

    Bacon is blinded by his sexism/arrogance, but you are a completely objective observer unfazed by your daughter’s and marriage cousin’s affiliation with the institution.

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    I am NOT objective here! I apologize if I have misrepresented myself.

  4. Hey, as a Wahoo, I made the trip to Mary Washington when it had only women. I was a fan of Mary Wash long before you were, Peter G.!!

  5. I visited Mary Washington with my Number One son, and liked it. I thought the place looked lovely, and that it would be a great place to go to college.

    However, Number One is applying this year, and has so far refused to apply to UMW and is applying to VaTech and JMU. His high school tracks the GPA you need to get into Va colleges, and UMW doesn’t take as high a GPA as do UVa and VaTech. So, the customer feedback I am seeing reinforces Bacon.

  6. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Dear Mr. Schutz,
    I am having trouble seeing your point about the GPAs. It is one criteria upon which to make a decision. I already noted Mary Washington’s acceptance rates. It really depends on what you want. If you want a big, huge campus and you want to be an engineer, then Tech is the way to go, I guess. Its acceptance rate is only a little stricter than Mary Wash’s.

    1. I think Mr. Schulz is looking at it as a competition for the schools with the strictest GPA standards – which I would agree with Peter – that’s not necessarily what’s best for the kid – but there is a herd mentality now about brand schools and getting in to the “best” ones… with “best” being more about what the herd thinks than a particular individual.

      But rest assured the “brand” schools are also playing this game with money – tuition, fees, etc..

      it’s a perverse game of getting what you pay for.

      We blame the schools.. but in a way – they are reflecting our values and our values are not about the toughest academics or what’s best for a particular kid.

      I know people whose kids purposely went to a smaller, less well-known school on purpose.. so the kid was a real person and not one in a gigantic herd.

      1. Guys, I LIKED UMW. I have several times tried, after our visit, to persuade my Number One guy to apply there. I think my sister’s college experience at Earlham was in many ways better than mine at Berkeley. I may even tell my guy that he has to apply to UMW, in case he does not get into his preferred schools. But my point originally was to concur with Bacon’s concern that a school which is not eliciting ‘I must go there’ from a lot of high school seniors can be in trouble if it is carrying too much debt and it doesn’t get enough tuition-bearing students to support it, and that UVa is in less danger from its debt.

  7. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    I take your point. Mary Wash does have a lot going for it. One good thing was that my daughter got through with no debt! There’s lots of one-on-one with profs and DC is an hour away by train or car.

    1. the phrase “no debt” ought to be paramount.. TMT alluded to his daughter finishing with no debt, I believe – and I think this proves that student loans are not inevitable if part of your requirements is, in fact, debt…

      If kids and parents started off by saying that a core requirement in making a choice was no debt or as little as possible -would it affect the choices?

  8. Late breaking news! As of twenty minutes ago, my guy expressed that he would probably apply to UMW as his safety school. We have told our guys that it’s our goal to get them through college with no debt, and that for that reason we won’t support their application to out of state schools, Larryg.

    1. Dave – I commend you on the no-debt approach and if your guys are going to schools of high caliber – they must be excellent students so good job on parenting also!


  9. I thought folks might be interested in the BOV meeting for UMW reported in the local Free Lance Star today:

    In recent years, UMW has run into a funding crunch because enrollment, particularly from higher-paying out-of-state-students, was not keeping up the amount of tuition dollars needed.

    However, Kimberly Buster–Williams, associate provost for enrollment management at UMW, said applicants and those interested in applying from out-of-state have increased.

    Her office is implementing new strategies to help draw students. Along with early applications, which end Nov. 15, the admissions department is sending out merit-based scholarship promises along with offers.

    Also, the office is studying whether UMW should not require SAT or ACT testing results for admission. If approved, the program would be piloted next year and high school students would need a GPA of at least 3.65 or be in the top 20 percent of their class to qualify as exempt from the tests.

    Buster–Williams also said easier access to financial aid and new amenities such as the Information Technology Convergence Center and soon-to-be-completed Campus Center are helping draw students to UMW.”

    a retired member of the General Assembly made this statement and voted no for increases in fees to pay for backlogged maintenance….

    ” BOV member Edd Houck cast the only dissenting vote. He questioned whether UMW should continue building when existing facilities need maintenance. He said the board needs to look fundamentally at how projects are financed.”

    bottom line – the only emphasis on cost is the fear of lowering enrollments – which they then say they try to improve by lowering academic entrance standards …..and making financial aid “easier”.

  10. By the way, the turkey is the totem of Virginia Tech, not UVa. So, what your headline is really saying is that Mary Washington soars over Virginia Tech.

    I can buy that!

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