ON Kilter: Dixie State; there’s more at stake than a name

Dixie State College name change for University status
Debate over name change for Dixie State College | Image composite by Brett Barrett, St. George News

OPINION – The debate for the name of Dixie State College of Utah, as it ascends to university status, wages on. Proponents for keeping the traditional name of “Dixie” argue that those drawing associations between the name and the slave-owning people of the actual South of history past do so without foundation, that the associations are fabricated.


Perhaps it would be beneficial for those who seek to elevate their beloved institution to a full-fledged university to understand the power in the meaning of the word “semblance.”

The dictionary defines the word as the outward appearance or apparent form of something, when the reality is different.

While dismissing any ties to the Civil War era’s South, the institution proudly flies a confederate flag on a statue predominately placed on campus.

Semblance of a tie to Civil War South?

While it maintains no associations with slavery, its library holds yearbooks with pictures depicting mock slave auctions and other discriminatory mock traditions.

Semblance of an underlying acceptance of discrimination?


But there may be a more telltale symptom that reveals the heart of the matter.


In the face of real-time evidence of ties to a heritage having some facets which are shameful, the proponents of the name Dixie deny validation to those who feel the weight of discrimination.

Rather than say that it is understood why they might feel the way they do, and that all reasonable assurances can be made that, in spite of an erroneous past, a righteous and just future can be assured, they categorically deny any associations with the past whatsoever.

This not only insults the intelligence of those who lay claim to being offended but, as my good friend Eric Young might say, it depreciates them.

And then you have the event of last week where a mob-like group appear at a public venue to heckle and boo those who present their opposition in legal and civil fashion. And there was the shutting down of a lawful candlelight vigil on the Dixie State campus by campus police.

These responses to protesters do not support the assertion that the name is merely a “tradition;” rather the responses display a mindset that refuses to accept responsibility for its history while at the same time demanding people only see what is good in its past.

The past of any community or individuaI is comprised of both good and bad. You cannot have one and not the other.

Clinging almost desperately and adamantly to a name reveals two things.

The first is a love for the respect this fine institution has earned over the last 100 years.

The second is an unwillingness to realize that the mere semblance of impropriety can damage the credibility of institutions and the people involved with them – in this case, from the Board of Regents right down to the graduating students.

Those in favor of retaining the name Dixie for the the institution want their plea to be taken seriously; but their plea was blown last week by the behavior of those raucous hecklers and by the unconstitutional shutting down of that candlelight vigil.

But there is today.

May I encourage both sides to try again to engage in a civil discourse through which both can be heard and a result might be reached that is a win-win for the institution and those who attend it?

Because, the future of both is at stake here. The lack of solidarity may tarnish the inaugural year of the University more than the name itself ever could.

See you out there.

Dallas Hyland is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

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Name change forum, Dixie State College encourages public input on university transition

Dixie State students convene over school name change

Letter to the Editor: Minority Coalition stance on college name change

Perspectives: Dixie State College, resisting the tyranny of the minority

Confederate soldiers come tumbling down; Dixie State College feeling the heat?

ON Kilter: When a sculptor shapes public perception, who speaks for whom?

Letter to the Editor: Restore Dixie; bring back the Rebel and the Confederate statue

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Twitter: @dallashyland

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

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  • Ron December 5, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Good analysis, Dallas. I would also add, that the name “Dixie State University” simply sounds silly. While it might mean something locally, try impressing a potential employer back east with a degree from a university with a silly name. You can object to the snobbishness inherent in that sort of response, but while you’re objecting, the graduates of William & Mary, Texas A&M, the University of Utah, Southern Utah University, and other institutions with dignified names taking the jobs that might have been yours.

  • pete December 5, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    what is your favorite place to eat?

    imagine going there for lunch tomorrow and there is a sign on the door saying “NO BLACKS ALLOWED.”

    having that sign up would make that a racist establishment.

    until 1978, the LDS church did not allow blacks into the church, or they were only allowed part membership. (so imagine the sign at the restaurant saying”BLACKS ONLY ALLOWED TO EAT OUTSIDE ON ASPHALT.”)

    that makes the lds church a racist organization until 1978. and who started dixie state college? and when?

    the lds church started dixie state college. in the early 1900′s. when they were classified racists.

    so a racist(at the time) organization starts a school(or business or whatever) and names it dixie……..

    sure sounds wrong to me.

  • Doug Chambers December 5, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Actually Pete, you’re wrong, the LDS Church allowed, even encouraged blacks to be in the Church, but they could have the Priesthood in 1978. And, those who were already members, well, they saw it as a blessing. Your “racist” epithet is ignorant of the facts, and a vile lie. As for Dixie being started by the Church, everything around here was started by the Church. As for the name Dixie, go to Star Nursery sometime and when you do, realize it was a cotton mill. The Church needed textiles out west and Brigham Young asked members from the South (Dixie) to settle and grow cotton here. It was miserably hot and there was precious little water. Their efforts are honored by the name Dixie, and that’s the tradition spoken of, honoring our ancestors from the South and their sacrifices to establish “Zion” in Utah. If you don’t like it, don’t go to school at Dixie High, or Dixie State, or you could always leave, because I’m sure it “offend” you sensibilities to see “Dixie” painted on the red rocks behind St. George or the big “D” on Black Mountain, all lit up. Yeah, I suppose the word “semblance” has relavance to something beside your foolish political correctness. Get over it.

  • Curtis December 5, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Dallas —
    You make some quite broad generalizations which are not justified.
    I support keeping the name Dixie but do not marginalize those of a different opinion any more than I feel marginalized by the actions of hecklers.
    How exactly does the action of campus police — legal or not — invalidate my reasoning for keeping the word Dixie as part of the school’s name? My reasoning is that Dixie is part of the pioneer heritage of the area.
    As for the school — to use your definition of semblance — while activities and symbols in the school’s history may have and outward appearance or apparent form the reality is different.

  • Jason December 5, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    Well said Doug. So sick of people trying to make a big deal about nothing. Political correctness is taken so far overboard these days it is embarassing. We are proud to call the area Dixie and as usual the ones who bring up racism are usually the racist ones. The rest of us are busy living our own lives. People really need to grow up and stop being so ignorant and easily offended.

  • CurtisLB December 6, 2012 at 12:36 am

    The United States is PLACE that in the PAST allowed slavery and to this day harbors racists. I suppose we should change the name of our country because of its past mistakes. Seems that is your rational for not continuing the Dixie name. Too many are stuck in the past blaming a PLACE for the mistakes of PEOPLE.

  • Alvin December 6, 2012 at 7:44 am

    So let’s say I move to Las Vegas for work. While I’m there I realize that gambling offends me. I then decide to start a vigorious revolt against gambling in “my” area. How would you think that effort would go? I was fully aware of gambling when I moved there. So why should my opinion even matter in this case?

    So now there are folks who decide to move to Dixie for whatever reason. It’s not possible to come here and not see the “D” on the black hill or the Dixie on the red hill. At that point one may ask, “what’s that all about”? Then after they are told what’s going on they can then make a decision on whether to move here and enjoy the community’s history.

    If they decide to challenge this history then maybe they have deeper issues within them then what is really going on around them.

    • The Absolutist December 9, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      So basically, agree with our viewpoint or get out. sounds reasonable…Too bad if a person wants to take advantage of living in such a beautiful area, getting a college education at a good price, and maybe live out their life in this area, they should only do so if they agree with “Dixie.” Do you really want to kick out everyone that disagrees? Is there no way that both sides can work together while having different views? Hi, we’re Dixie State University. Come to our school where the weather is warm, you can enjoy nature, have a good time in little old St. George, the people are very friendly, tuition is a good price, and we can all just have such a fun time! Oh, don’t forget to read the footnotes at the bottom of this pamphlet. It gives you a brief summary of the tradition and history of St. George. If you think our name sounds silly or racist, well, you’re obviously racist, you obviously have no values, and are rebels yourselves trying to wreck our culture! So….either shut up or don’t come to OUR school. And if you’re not from around here, but happened to have chosen to come here, you just pay to go here and work hard to get an education, why should that give you any say in the name of OUR (not your) school?

  • william December 6, 2012 at 9:10 am

    There was once a City by the Sea and the city was full of CityFolk who said “Oh we hate it here. It not like at all like the City by the Desert where people are friendly and warm”

    So the CityFolk move from the City by the Sea to the City by the Desert. But then the CityFolk started noticing that things were not to their liking. And cries of “It runs by the Good Old Boys, and these backwoods hicks are too conservative to be in power”

    So the CityFolk cried and wrote about how things should be to bring enlightens to the City by the Desert. They scoff that those who said “It you don’t like it leave”

    After a time the CityFolk with help of others of their kind, got their way and made the changes to being enlighten to the City by the Dessert.

    Then CityFolk had a For Sale sign in front of their house. When ask why they were leaving after getting what they wanted they cried “Oh we hate it here. It not like at all like the City by the Forest where people are friendly and warm. It like the dreaded City by the Sea”

    • Tyler December 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm

      City by the desert or city IN the desert?! Your statement is odd.

  • Dennis Wignall December 6, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Those who study the effects of “selective perception” recognize the tendency of people to identify only the positive and supportive elements of any issue. Simultaneously, people suffer denial of any negative elements. This is particularly evident in smaller communities lacking in diversity in the extant population. As diverse human representation expands in that community, the small community mind set becomes more entrenched out of perceived survival needs. Opposing ideological camps develop and each pursues self-serving goals, thus fulfilling a fallacious false dilemma in which neither side s “right”. In turn, this becomes self-defeating and closed mindedness proliferates to the detriment of all. The strength of a community, even nation, is measured by the collaboration of its members, by the sharing of diverse views and values, subsequently arriving at a solution that benefits everyone. The weakness of a community is informed by a willingness to pursue mindless group think and reject, even punish, alternative points of view and unpopular orientations. Our community and our college are being degraded by the current state of affairs and we are defining ourselves equally negatively.

    • Kaitlyn December 9, 2012 at 8:49 pm

      Dennis, you are so right. This should be a time of celebration on our campus. We are getting University status! BUT…we can’t even figure out a name. There has got to be some way to work this out together without becoming hyper defensive or hyper offensive.

  • Jason December 6, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Love it William!

  • Truth2Light December 6, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Thank you for your article Dallas. It is wonderful to be proud of the establishment of such a beautiful community as St. George and all the formidable effort and sacrifice that went into it. Our purpose in mortality is to make everyday choices that take us onward and upward to become the best we can be. The “Rebel” image that included the Confederate flag represented a time in history that was sad ,oppressive and contrary to uplifting humanity. By embracing that image we stand for that cause to the world whether or not we think we have a different meaning.

  • juse December 6, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    That’s great and accurate William!

  • Smigman December 6, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Well at least they finally removed the abomination that was the confederate soldier statute. Good call and good riddance.

  • Stephanie Moreno December 6, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    It’s almost incredible to hear people in 2012 say “if you don’t like it, leave.” What an ignorant thing to say! Every single civil right achievement made, has been made because people who believed in doing the right thing fought for it & didn’t give up. If this is the mentality people have, no progress would be made. Ever. So instead of being so closed-minded, learn to listen what others have to say. You might learn not to make ignorant comments again.

  • Doug Chambers December 6, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Well, well, well, aren’t we the enlightened ones, Mr. Smigman’s reference to the “statute” as an abomination makes me laugh at the way you tried to make yourself appear so erudite and learned and then someone “informed” you that your simplistic judgement was in stark error to its real meaning. Smugman, I’d say, insisting your so much better than the rest of us. You are the kind of person that makes us get rid of nativity scenes, Mark Twain’s literature, etc. because it “offends” you. Well, your offensive to me, your smug imposition of your “modern” thinking. Your kind ask the rest of us to yield to your wisdom, perhaps, to get “In God We Trust” removed, or any semblence of offensive religion and its artifacts. I suppose you and your ilk would like to graduate form DSU, as long as it meant Diversity State University, or just DU for short. DUH I expect academia to spout this kind of drivel, after all, they gave us Kanesian Economics, socialist rhetoric, 16 trillion dollars in debt from borrowing 40 cents of every dollar the USA spends. Problem is, in the real world, outside of the academic bubble, it’s messed up and eventually those of us who respect tradition and old fashioned values end up having to clean up the mess left by you well intentioned educated idiots. And, we’ll do it again, eventually. God bless ya!

    • Marius van der Merwe December 7, 2012 at 11:57 am

      Mr. Doug Chamber’s response up here is a great example of why the new university will be so much better served by getting rid of the old name. I can just hope that even most supporters of the old name will be appalled at this display of intolerance.

  • Tyler December 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Washington County Minority Coalition ( a local group of minority advocates) is holding a peaceful vigil protest Thurs. @ 5:30 pm on the public sidewalk near campus (visit Washington County Minority Coalition’s FB page for exact info. Yes, it is unconstitutional what that the college PD stopped a previous PEACEFUL candlelight vigil! Thanks to them, the debate will only get more heated in time.

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