On the EDge: Be a ‘real’ Rebel, accept Dixie name change

OPINION – On the world stage, the term Dixie does not generate the affection afforded it in Southern Utah.

It raises the specter of the antebellum South, a real time in the nation’s history that resulted in the Civil War.

During that time, Southern Utah was settled and, because of the warmer climate, it was believed that it would be the perfect place to raise cotton. Things were getting tense in the South and the pioneers who settled here were in need of cotton.

An initial crop was harvested and plans were made to go into larger-scale production. Thirty-eight families, all from the Old South, were assigned to the task, according to local historian Harold P. Cahoon (“Utah’s Dixie Birthplace). “The song ‘Dixie’ was also popular during this time, which helped the Southerners to reminisce about their homeland,” he wrote.

So, there was a connection. No, there was no slavery and the pioneers hardly lived the plantation lifestyle, but that’s how the area came to be named. And, subsequently, “Dixie” became an integral part of Southern Utah despite the connotations the word took on over the years.

It became relevant, of course, when Dixie College made steps to move up from community college status to a four-year institution and, now, a university.

The point of a learning institution is to raise consciousness in the classroom and in the community. The student population at Dixie State has been increasing in diversity and depth and the school is looking at bigger and better days.

That means more students, more prestige.

Therein lies the rub.

Is Dixie a becoming name for a university?

dixie rebels

A few years ago, the school dumped its mascot, changing from the Rebels to the Red Storm, about as dumb a move as I’ve ever seen. Red Storm? Lame, very lame.

If they had to change the mascot, a more fitting one would be Pioneers, which most accurately reflects the Southern Utah heritage and should be offensive to none. There is a strong cultural and religious connection to Pioneers that is readily identifiable and easy to explain.

Now, there is a heated controversy over the school name, so much so that last week the school removed a statue depicting two Confederate soldiers, a horse and the Stars and Bars from the campus.

I’m told that it is an appeasement of sorts so the school can retain “Dixie” in its name, according to scuttlebutt from one student I know.

Quite frankly, I would rather see the school go back to the Rebel mascot than continue with the Dixie moniker and that horrid Red Storm appellation.

Rebels? There are tons of them, maybe not as prevalent here because, well, rebels aren’t particularly welcomed here. But, in general, the term doesn’t necessarily focus on the members of the CSA troops that took up arms against the North during the Civil War. And, honestly, rebels are a good thing. They are unconventional, independent, valiant, if you will. The Founding Fathers of this nation were rebels. Those who stood up for social justice in the ‘60s were rebels. Those who oppose tyranny and the status quo are also rebels.

But, what should we name the forthcoming university?

Beats me. Southern Utah University is already taken. University of Utah, St. George sounds good to me, but could be misleading. Utah State University, St. George? Equally misleading. St. George University sounds like a catholic school. Deseret University is a thought. It has possibilities and comes with a built-in mascot — the honeybee.  There are two drawbacks, however. A version of this was used before. The University of Utah, when it was founded in 1850, was known as the University of Deseret. And, of course, there’s the connection to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and, well, there’s this little thing called separation of church and state since the university will be taxpayer funded.

It doesn’t leave many alternatives other than University of Southern Utah, St. George.

It’s not fancy, not splashy, but isn’t it all supposed to be about education and the university experience? If we stumble at all in pursuit of university status we lose an important opportunity for economic and cultural growth.

A university brings much more to a community than a college. It brings jobs, it brings the kind of growth that Southern Utah desperately needs — growth of diversity. It brings stature, it brings credibility.

What is Southern Utah really known for anyway?

There’s Zion National Park, Snow Canyon State Park, but culturally? Outside of the state lines, Utah is thought of as a place where polygamy is rampant and the drinking laws are silly.

Businesses looking to relocate here at this time are not doing so because of all the beauty. They come here because they can purchase property at a much more reasonable price, can con the city fathers into fat relocation incentive packages that can range from tax benefits to utility cuts if they promise to stay here five years.

They come here because they can hire their labor force cheaply, and not have to compete with California wages.

Towns with universities can offer a much smarter workforce, can offer partnering opportunities in specialty practices, and an environment that challenges the mind rather than stifling it.

Dixie? It is one of those words that has grown in a bad direction. A friend of mine posted on Facebook recently: “My mom is named Dixie. Does that make her a racist?”

Of course not, but she is also not an institute of higher education that is in vigorous competition with other schools across the nation. She is a mom and she did a great job raising her son, a person I am particularly proud to call my friend.

We cannot, as a community, dig our heels in on an issue that, quite frankly, is already causing bad press for the school in the national media.

Be a real rebel and embrace change, even if it is difficult.

No bad days!

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

Related posts

Dixie State College launches name change survey, seeks public input

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

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

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

Perspectives: Reading old books, an antidote to thought control

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

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

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  • Bob Lamoreaux December 13, 2012 at 8:33 am

    How about Southwestern Utah University at St. George (SWUUSG)? The longer the name the better right…

  • Cathy Avery December 13, 2012 at 8:36 am

    As we found out with the name change of our mascot, it does not matter what the public wants because the school will take all the surveys then name the college what ever they want anyways. Did you know that the choice of “Red Storm” for the mascot was not even on the ballot for the mascot name change?

    If they name the school St. George University then all 5 of my family members who are attending the college now will transfer to SUU. Honestly, have you ever seen a UNIVERSITY named after a city? NO. A community college is named after the city. Is there a Salt Lake City University? NO. Is there a Provo University? NO. Is there a Chicago University? NO. Is there any UNIVERSITY named after the city? None that I can find. Who wants to graduate from a UNIVERSITY that sounds like a community college?

    I have family in Georgia who just cannot understand the big uproar about the name change. They live in the south and not are insulted by the name Dixie. It is the heritage of the area, the community and the college.

    But does it really matter in the big picture? NO The college will spend all this money to hire a company to run surveys then they will name it what they want anyways.

    If so many people think that the name “Dixie State University” is so offensive then I hate to tell you this but there are more people just waiting on the side lines to cause a big stir about all the LDS religious views that expressed at the college. The religious views are tied to the college in every aspect and that is going to be the next big issue to become a University. I personally know of a group of about 200 people who are just waiting to bring this to light if the name is not Dixie State University. Do you think we will get University status if this is brought up too? Probably NOT!

    I for one, would prefer to be known as a city that has a university named after the heritage then a city who has a state funded University that shoves a certain religion on each and every student. Will the Catholics, Baptists, Jewish, Muslim, Atheists or anyone other then LSD want to come to the University after it is brought to light that from the upper management to the teachers all push the LDS religion on the students? I would hope NOT.

    • Roy J December 13, 2012 at 12:23 pm

      University of Dallas, Seattle University, University of Chicago (there is a philosophy professor at Dixie from there, I believe), almost all the University of California schools are distinguished by the city name…food for thought, anyways. Woot!

    • skylar December 13, 2012 at 9:31 pm

      I am a senior at Dixie college. The only people that I have seen “shov(ing) a certain religion on each and every student” are a few students that couldn’t get into BYU.

  • diana December 13, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Well, here is a thought. GROW UP PEOPLE. Dixie is a great name. Dixie is a great song. Alabama is a great singing group. The confederate flag is a fun! The Rebel is a great mascot and the Rebel Yell sends chills down your spine. SO GET WITH THE PROGRAM. What is to be ashamed of??

  • Dsull December 13, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Excelent article Ed. I would love to return to the reble mascot.

    For being a graduate of Dixie I was never pushed to be LDS by any of the faculty and if the church wants to donate that’s just that much less I have to pay through taxes and fees.

    Most of the faculty I interacted with was from out of state and not a member of the Mormon faith. I doubt that this has changed since i have been gone. I just chose not to attend the little religious gatherings that they hold when they dedicate a building donated by them. Same thing with the Catholic Church donating buildings in Pennsylvania or at SUNY campus’s. Everywhere I have been people complain about an over bearing predominate religion. I figure let them provide buildings. I’m not going to join

  • Rick M. December 13, 2012 at 9:45 am

    I am offended by the name “Kociela”. I want Ed to change his name to Ed Rebel. I want Ed, with all my heart, to embrace this name change as difficult as it might be. I really don’t care how long he has had this offensive name. I don’t care if there is no intent in offending anyone by this name. I have feelings and they have been hurt. I know this is what my Great, Great Grandfather would want as well. I’m pretty sure Grandad was also offended by the name. It’s all about healing. Let the healing begin. Let’s start by ripping the guts right out of St. George and Dixie College. Heritage schmeritage ! Let’s just call it Rainbow Fluffy Bunny University. I don’t think rainbows and bunnies should offend anyone.

  • Ed Kociela December 13, 2012 at 10:02 am

    @Cathy: Ever heard of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)? University of San Francisco (USF)? Portland State? University of Denver? California State University Fullerton, Irvine, Chico, Hayward, etc? Seattle University? University of Pittsburgh? St. Louis University?

    • Roy J December 13, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      aww, I didn’t read this first! dngit. Nice point, Ed.

  • MW435 December 13, 2012 at 11:35 am

    I will always refer to the school as the Dixie Rebels. People need to stop being offended by everything. The fact that no other name seems to fit, denotes that the word Dixie should remain by the definition it was first named after.

  • Doug December 13, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Ed, you said the statue was of Confederate soldiers, but i was told that one is and the other is a Union solder. Designed to promote unity, but you wouldn’t understand that, since you are into the latest PC academic faux fact, “diversity” is good. Actually, in most societies, they are strengthened by assimilation and homogenaity. There is not much factual benefit to “diversity,” even though the lie is respoken over and over by pseudo science. Most studies have shown this failure to assimilate eventually results in fracturing of societies. As for the name Dixie, I agree with you, bring back The Rebels; Dixie State University Rebels has a good ring to it.

    • Karen December 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm

      The statue is of two Confederate soldiers. The sculptor borrowed the idea from a civil war poem about two Union soldiers, not Confederate soldiers. The poem was also made into a song. The poem is “Two Little Boys” by Edward Madden.

      One soldier sees his childhood friend laying wounded on the battlefield and heads “Out from the ranks so blue” to rescue him. At the end, he tells his friend, “Climb up here, Joe, we’ll soon be flying
      Back to the ranks so blue.”

    • Curtis December 14, 2012 at 10:44 am

      I haven’t read to poem but in listening to the song it is clear to me that one is Union and one Confederate. The rescuer is Union and the one being rescued is Confederate. What the sculpture represents is more ambiguous.

      • Karen December 14, 2012 at 11:32 am

        I listened to the song and read the poem. The Union soldier is saving his friend, also a Union soldier, and tells him they’ll soon be flying back to the “ranks so blue”. Do you think the Union soldier would happily tell a Confederate soldier that they’d be flying “back to the “ranks so blue?” I don’t think so.

      • Amy Harmon December 16, 2012 at 2:12 am

        What Karen said is correct. I have a picture of the plaque that sits next to the statue with the history of the statue and the poem if you would like to see it. The sculptor originally did a statue with Union soldiers but then he was asked to do another statue with two Confederate soldiers to tie “Utah’s Dixie” to the south. The poem has a wonderful message but the statue is of two Confederate soldiers and a Confederate flag.

        Here is the link to a picture if you are interested. I made it public so hopefully you can view it: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=4596599926521&set=pb.1637911091.-2207520000.1355648959&type=3&theater

  • Shante Jenkins December 13, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Ed. You look like a hippy no wonder you would not care. Leave the name who cares. There are bigger problems than this school. Its called the RECESSION that will soon be a DESPRESSION!

  • Marijo Young December 14, 2012 at 12:05 am

    I would like to know why is everyone is so afraid of our history (US or Utah)? Our history, speaks of who we were, but that is the past so why does everyone keep getting re-offended about choices of the past by some. We cannot erase our history nor should we, how does the saying go “those that do not know their history are doomed to repeat it”. We need to teach of our history and learn from it, not try and bury it or sweep it under the rug like it never took place. Having the name of Dixie is harmless, should St. George remove it from it’s vocabulary and lose it’s identity all together all in the name of political correctness? I say nay. St. George never had anything to do with the many problems of the Old South especially during the Civil War period and to brand them as racist etc. is ludicrous at best.

    • Not your history December 16, 2012 at 10:37 am

      So those mock slave captures/auctions and students with blacked out faces that grace the school’s “Confederacy” schoolbook are not offensive? I consider those actions as very racist and hateful, not to mention the comments about blacks I hear from people here of that age group. To imply these acts & comments were done with respect for blacks is ludicrous at best.

      Why are people in St George so afraid to speak of their Mountain Meadow Massacre history and heritage? I bet there are descendants of those murderers who live here. However, you don’t see anyone identifying with the Mountain Meadow murders and you certainly won’t see it recreated in any local parades or festivities. Originally, Indians were blamed for for those murders, as locals wanted to bury it, deny it, sweep under the rug like it never took place.

  • Not your history December 16, 2012 at 10:12 am

    St George never was a part of the Confederacy. This was adopted by the college in 1951. How does something fabricated in 1951 suddenly become a part of your heritage & history since the settlers came into the area? It was not a contingent of Confederate soldiers waving confederate and dixie flags that settled here. It was a bunch of mormons sent down from Salt Lake City.

    Learn your actual history. Quit making up history.

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