Judge rules in favor of ousted association at MUW

Published 5:58 pm Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Lowndes County Chancery Judge Dorothy Colom has issued a ruling in favor of the ousted alumnae association at Mississippi University for Women in a lingering internal dispute.

The decision, issued late Friday, could result in the matter advancing to the Mississippi Supreme Court. It may also mean MUW president Dr. Claudia Limbert will have to find a way to work with the 118-year-old organization she has attempted to isolate from the university.

While details of the ruling were not immediately available, Perry Sansing, assistant to the MUW president and an attorney, confirmed the ruling.

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“Our initial review of the opinion is that the opinion has significant adverse consequences for higher education in the state of Mississippi,” said Sansing.

Sansing said there would be nothing more from the university until school officials have had a chance to meet with attorneys, the College Board and others.

He said the group would then decide what options are available, including a possible appeal to the state high court.

Susan Rayner Puckett, current president of the MUW Alumnae Association, applauded the judge’s ruling.

“We look forward to working once again with Dr. Limbert and her administration,” Puckett said. “We will seek every opportunity to work collaboratively in order to support our university and to move it forward.”

The court ruling comes after more than a year of feuding between the association and Limbert. Limbert announced in February she was severing ties with the MUWAA, saying its leaders tried to have her fired and attempted to undermine university fundraising activities. She then formed the new association — the MUW Alumni Association — with Renee Flynt as president.

Meanwhile, the old alumnae association filed suit in Lowndes County Chancery Court in late March in a push to stop Limbert’s disaffiliation. Colom had the association later add the College Board and the university to the suit.

Since that time, the various parties have been working both in court and in court-ordered mediation to settle their differences. However, those on both sides of the lawsuit agreed the mediation wasn’t helping.

The old alumni group and the new group Limbert chose to affiliate the university with, also couldn’t work out their differences to write a set of bylaws and merge the groups. The new group went it alone, approving the bylaws by temporary officers. Limbert signed off on the new group’s bylaws in early August.