Nixing ‘Dixie’ a slap in the community’s face

Craig Blake | Dixie Sun Opinion Editor

Dixie State College has announced a course of action that will be a slap in the face for the community and alumni if it is realized.

Dixie State College has announced a course of action that will be a slap in the face for the community and alumni if it is realized.

The Board of Trustees announced Friday a plan to pursue a partnership with the University of Utah. Should an agreement be reached, the schools would become educational partners while remaining independent institutions. DSC would benefit by additional funding and availability of staff that would allow it to increase its four-year programs and graduate degrees. This is positive.

The changing academic conditions of southern Utah require more programs. The community demands it. Since funding through the state was hard to come by, DSC administrators explored other options and found a U of U/DSC partnership to be a good one. But with all the benefits this partnership would bring, it came packaged with a blaring black eye: the college’s suggested new name.

As part of the official announcement made Friday, a new name for the college was revealed: “University of Utah, St. George.” The Board of Trustees has made it a part of their proposal to eliminate the last thread of old tradition this school has left in its name.

DSC’s administration, over the past 10 years, has systematically done away with everything that represents this area’s pioneer heritage, the most recent being two years ago, when the colonel mascot was replaced with a desert hawk. Even then it caused quite a stir, and that was just over a mascot. At that time the administration defended their position, claiming they were simply changing the field mascot. They would never dream of changing the name of the school or the mascot from “Rebels.”

I guess a lot happens in two years. If a name change is accepted and it excludes the word “Dixie,” it will alienate most alumni who still call this their college. Anything that tied them to this school will have been destroyed. For what? Nothing. It seems like an awful lot to lose on a name change that is completely unnecessary and within the power of the Board of Trustees to keep or discard.

Why? Why would we ever want to be called anything but Dixie? Why not University of Utah, Dixie? The same reason every other Dixie icon has been removed is still the motivation fueling its destruction today: a lack of understanding.

Dixie State College in no way represents the Confederate States of America. It almost sounds silly when said that way, doesn’t it? But people have been hounding that same silly idea, that the title “Dixie State College” isn’t politically correct, for years. It’s time for a history lesson. St. George was founded by Mormon settlers who were sent to southern Utah to grow cotton, as evidenced by the old cotton mill in Washington City. Because of persecution in Missouri and Illinois, they left the United States and had essentially formed their own territory within what was then Mexico. The cotton industry in St. George never became much of a growing concern, but because of its warm climate and the attempt to grow cotton, the area began to bear the nickname “Utah’s Dixie,” which eventually led to the school’s name.

But there are no connections between DSC and the confederate states or their ideology. It has everything to do with pioneers growing cotton, which really isn’t that offensive, is it? Cotton? By eliminating the word Dixie, we are not making a victory over racial tension, we are defeating ourselves and failing our community, students and especially our alumni.

If “Dixie” is eliminated because of political sensitivity, we cannot expect “Rebels” to last very long either. Everything the administration two years ago vowed would not happen, will have happened, step by step.

The people who will be alienated by this change are those who care about Dixie the most. The people, especially alumni, who are most willing to give their time and talents are the people who will be the most hurt. Why would we want to distance ourselves from the alumni, students and staff who care most about this school?

It has been argued that retaining “Dixie” would weaken out-of-state recruiting due to offense. It is possible that a person here and there who doesn’t understand the school’s history might be offended. Sensitivities differ, and we can’t please the whole world. But if “Dixie” is removed, it is certain that thousands of DSC alumni will be offended, maybe even to the extent that the school will lose their support.

In our rush to enter the world stage, we need to be very careful that we are not erasing everything almost 100 years of Dixie students, faculty, staff and alumni spent building. We need to be very careful that we not stop being Dixie. If a handful of people want to change this school into some big university, and they don’t mind ridding the school of its identity on the way, they should get together and start a new school altogether. If I was building a university and didn’t want it to be anything like Dixie, then Dixie would be a bad place to start. We cannot treat it like it is a clean slate to do whatever we want with. It’s just not.

If Board of Trustees members want Dixie to grow, great. If they want to enter into a partnership with the U of U, wonderful. But if this growth is to be done in order to meet the needs of the community, it needs to be done in a way that doesn’t alienate the community it serves or the alumni who serve it. And if their opinions are not heavily considered, above any others, shame on those who make the final word. The word “Dixie” needs to be included in the college’s name and identity. If it is eliminated, it would be a tragic mistake. University of Utah, Dixie is the best option for everybody.

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