Letter to the Editor: Pioneers would disapprove of the DSU name change

Images in public domain, St. George News

OPINION — The commendable pathway to honoring pioneer founders whose immense contributions made Dixie State University the beacon it is today is seeing this name fight through to the end.

Dixie State University campus, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Dixie State University, St. George News

Dixie State University’s name should remain because valid reasons for the change, including but not limited to actual rebranding costs, have yet to be put forth. A large swath of individuals with university ties reject rebranding to Utah Tech, Polytechnic, or anything in between. Nor should an adjacent street or historical ‘Dixie’ campus be given praise. Southern Utahans don’t beg for scraps.

As much as drawing attention to DSU board of trustees decorum is warranted, highlighting the Dixie name change proponents’ testimony at the State Capitol is more productive. Because the board of trustees are appointed the community can’t throw the bums out. I suggest prioritizing efforts with state legislature. It will be an uphill battle as most do not answer to Southern Utah constituents.

During the Utah House sub-committee hearing on the Dixie name change bill last February, a line was uttered by the rebranding proponents in response to a question inquiring if the community is behind this university rebranding. The reply given was, “This isn’t a popularity contest”. Proponents will utilize doublespeak when convenient. In this instance, a majority of Utah’s Dixie constituuents, whether over Zoom or other formats, voiced overwhelming opposition to the name change and yet—proponents defied the people’s will by weaponizing force to ram-rod unpopular university rebranding legislation.

On the flip side, DSU trustee board members don’t reflect a genuine cross-section of community whose real task appears to be stamping out racism through Dixie’s removal. This all-white, non-elected, mostly non-Utah’s Dixie native board of trustees stacked the popularity contest “ballot box” from inception voting to replace Dixie with Utah Tech.

Proponents really have worked themselves into a corner.

I’m reminded of a movie scene from Beverly Hills Cop II where Eddie Murphy’s character impersonates a building inspector shutting down construction on a mansion remodel while homeowners were vacationing. The entire encounter was a ruse. The Detroit cop was seeking a luxurious home to squat in during his California stay. In a later scene we find him lounging in the pool with a cocktail, donning a Hawaiian shirt.

I couldn’t help but think in terms of university rebranding. The cop represents proponents of the name change, the mansion is DSU, while the swimming pool is Utah Tech.

University trustees essentially gave themselves Eddie Murphy authority to rant like virtue-signaling oracles of cancel culture having remodeled an institution not in need of repair. The only adequate response to witnessing such exhaustive circus display of deception is silence with mouth agape in collective bewilderment as the mansions heritage is gutted in exchange for a backyard pool.

Several delegates as the convention wore “Keep Dixie in Utah’s Dixie,” in support of Jimi Kestin’s resolution leading the support of the county GOP keeping Dixie State University name as is. At the 2021 Washington County Republican Organizing Convention held in St. George, Utah, April 10, 2021 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Who doesn’t want to own the pool? Pools are sexy! However, perhaps the pool cannot function without existing foundation, community support and structure with a track record for weathering storms. Many individuals are discouraged and feel the process is a sham and their voice isn’t being heard.

What makes the United States founding so unique is it was never intended to be a nation with “national” solutions, rather, a collection of societies. Lincolnian nationalism didn’t take root until 1865. Thomas Jefferson was a proponent of decentralization with limited and defined powers at the center for general government and all other powers belonging to the people of the states. Federalism provided a relief valve for disagreements allowing Virginia to be Virginia and New York could be New York. Jefferson actually referred to Virginia as his country. As for Utah’s Dixie—regional culture and tradition blend to make up a collection among distinct Utah societies. Historian Brion McClanahan said, “National solutions are destined to fail because nearly half the population, if not more, will not only be excluded but abused.”

Jefferson was also a proponent of agrarianism as the pathway to building self-dependence. This philosophy had more to do with distaste for the New England model where merchants and government are in bed together then it did with all citizens becoming farmers. Contrast agrarianism with Alexander Hamilton’s political machinations laying the groundwork for government-controlled banking. It’s easy today to spot evidence of central authority consolidating power in every industry.

Utah’s Dixie exemplifies this Jeffersonian tradition of sweeping ones own back porch and helping neighbors through voluntarism. Another revolutionary principle among free societies was not controlling people through government force.

Societal freedoms must have weighed heavily with Joseph Smith when he penned letters to five US presidential candidates for redress of religious and constitutional freedoms denied to followers in Missouri and Nauvoo. Instead of giving up when no one pledged support, he ran for president to fight for equal protection under the law. The time may come when community members feel duty bound to restore Dixie if the state legislature rejects the peoples will and sides with the board of trustees.

Southern Utah is known as Utah’s Dixie because of the character of it’s people. Early settlers grappled with inhospitable climate as isolated regions began cultivating a new society. As families attempted taming the Virgin river and harvesting crops, settlements expanded outward to neighboring establishments. Eventually, higher education was desired and Dixie College was born out of humble origins. The legacy of Dixie State University is a testament to the toil and sacrifice of those early saints. Dixie State University has deep heritage and name recognition. It will always be a community college overseen by the community. You don’t dismantle centuries of tradition over a couple dudes who feel like changing out the carpet. Utah’s Dixie differs culturally from Northern Utah. Dixie State University’s name is praiseworthy and has earned the right to endure.

The call for sending Dixie branding to the scrapyard in order to compete nationally is a Trojan horse. Both the left and the right use this as a weapon against their political enemies. Both parties, at all levels, tend to expand power and grow programs which diminishes localities and individual autonomy. College student loans are a prime example.

Nationalism has always been the wrench in the spoke of the wheel between federal and state governance; state institutions are not immune from trickle down effects locally. Here are four noticeable cultural shifts through faculty demographics when universities court national prominence:

  • Top-down pressure to silence faculty or student dissent while ignoring alumni and other stakeholder input.
  • Influx of outside teachers can create groupthink and hostile environment for more traditional faculty members or students.
  • Faculty sympathetic to or promotion of socialism philosophy in the classroom like free access to food, healthcare or college.
  • Not investing, preserving, or respecting local culture, religion or tradition.

Here are some unknowns to consider if Dixie is rebranded:

  • Influx of outside money with strings attached (Big Tech/Utah Tech/Division I sports affliction)
  • Corporate censorship influence combined with academia means campus free speech diminishes
  • Regional or cultural uniqueness sacrificed for homogenized branding and collective approval
  • Alienating community and alumni support further eroding agrarianism

There’s a hand delivered petition to DSU’s president requesting community representative Tim Anderson be allowed to address DSU board of trustee members. Half of the ten member board had their term expire recently. College administration continually refuse community involvement in the rebranding process.

Dixie State University Institute of Politics hosts a panel discussion on the “Dixie” name change, St. George, Utah, Jan. 21, 2021 | File photo by Carlos Plummer, courtesy of DSU, St. George News

Southern Utah pioneers would disapprove of outside influences controlling university direction, these rebels weren’t unlike their ancestors today who disapprove of outsiders, or leftist ideology, forcing the removal of what most distinguishes Dixie from other state universities: it’s branding. It’s disingenuous posing as community leaders when the end goal is not in harmony with community values. The “ends justify the means” tactics should be rejected wholeheartedly.

While I sympathize with board of trustee member Bruce Hurst’s feelings on why he voted to remove Dixie, I disagree with the solution calling for more nationalism. Our federal republic is not a national blob—it’s a collection of societies and the university is a reflection of said society. Again, too much power at the center is problematic and decentralization to city and county levels is the solution.

“The South is racist.” Apparently, this is the crux why “Dixie” must go. DSU is lumped in with a historical period and region who lost a war between two slave-holding republics. Crazy rationale, especially when one considers how Southern culture today is embraced from coast to coast. Take food for example—Chick-fil-A claims southern roots.

Once we see past these sophomoric high school history arguments can we begin to understand how problematic viewing a century old war for Southern independence through 21st century lens where what-group-to-be-indignant-at fads change as often as Utah weather.

It’s crucial that community members stand up for heritage and not be afraid of being called names. The other sides are going to name call or feign outrage regardless. Know this behavior is according to the playbook.

Utah’s Dixie must stand for principles of self-government. The phrase to act on in honor of independence is: “No legislation without representation.”

Remember to contact both state representatives as well as northern friends contact their state representatives. A tidal wave of support is required to preserve Dixie tradition.

Submitted by RYAN SCHUDDE, St. George.

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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