The college’s ties to the word “Dixie” may have historical roots that run 100 years deep, but the push to remove the word from the college’s name is garnering some support.
Brody Mikesell, a senior integrated studies major from Henefer and Dixie State College Student Association president, said his full support was behind keeping “Dixie” as part of the university’s name. However, after some research and speaking with fellow students, he’s seeing things differently.
In an attempt to better understand the students’ point of view, Mikesell and the DSCSA executive council want to put together their own forums to gauge how offensive the word “Dixie” potentially is to the modern student.
“I have a very large concern that students aren’t as well-informed on this issue as they should be,” Mikesell said. “This has the potential to impact the campus profoundly. Unfortunately, the name ‘Dixie’ carries such a heavy, negative connotation.”
Mikesell said he is guilty of not doing enough research when Sorenson Advertising first approached him regarding the name change. He said although he was initially in the camp of keeping “Dixie” in the institution’s name, he changed his mind after delving into the college’s history.
“‘Dixie’ invokes happy and pleasurable emotions, and people enjoy it and they have some great ties to it,” he said about the way the word is viewed from a southern Utah perspective. “(But there are) a lot of people that it means something very different. In my opinion, we have no right to continue to perpetuate that.”
Mikesell said he was going through DSC’s yearbooks, and he kept coming across situations that associated “Dixie” with Confederacy and slavery—two things that had nothing to do with the reason DSC has its name.
“The historical fact is that, if you look back through our old yearbook, which was The Confederate, they say that the name ‘Dixie’ isn’t associated with the South or slavery or the secession from the United States,” Mikesell said. “But it absolutely was. We had their Confederate flag, a soldier was our mascot, we had their colors, we emulated exactly what they did.”
He said one particularly jarring photo was one of a Homecoming parade float called “Gone With the Plow” that featured an African-American man holding a plow and a white man standing behind him in a suit.
Mikesell also mentioned the “slave auctions” that were sponsored by the school. The “slave auctions,” which were similar to the date auctions the school sponsors currently, continued into the ‘90s and are documented in some of the last issues of The Confederate.
Dixie Sun News polled 139 people through Facebook and asked, “Do you think the word ‘Dixie’ should remain in the college’s name?” Of those polled, 122 answered “yes.”
Jessica Argyle, prospective DSC student and St. George resident, responded to poll and stated: “The job market is tough. [Changing the name] will make all the difference on a resume, and ‘Dixie’ kind of screams ‘cotton-picking racists’ to people who otherwise aren’t familiar with St. George or DSC.”
Former DSC student Ephraim Moore responded that the name should be changed: “The school should pick a name that better represents the students of today and tomorrow. The new name and brand should demonstrate not only the progress the school has made thus far, but also the desired progress for the next 100 plus years.”
And former DSC student Jared Spencer responded that the name should stay. He asked: “‘Dixie’ has been in the name of the college since 1916. Why should we change that?”
Mikesell said the history behind DSC doesn’t have to change, but he believes the name change should happen. He argues that because something is historical doesn’t necessarily make it morally correct.
“We emulated [The Confederacy], and it was lighthearted and it wasn’t to perpetuate racism,” he said about DSC’s history. “But the problem is we still did it. We need to admit we were wrong and admit we were at fault and dissolve the name Dixie and progress in a more positive direction.”
Mikesell said he is a humanist, and he is in favor of making DSC a place where everyone can feel comfortable. He said he hopes to persuade other students to see eye-to-eye with him, but he also said he wants students to be self-informed and make their own decisions accordingly.
Dixie Sun News asked what possible alternative names could take the place of DSC on a separate poll question through Facebook. Forty-one people responded to the poll, but only nine respondents offered choices that didn’t involve “Dixie” in the title.
Thirty people voted that they’d like the college’s name to be Dixie State University. Six people said they’d prefer the college be named University of St. George. Two people said Dixie Southwestern University could be a possible name, two voted for St. George University, and one person suggested Gateway University.
“I think the very best one, and this is just my opinion, is University of St. George,” Mikesell said. “It would be involving the entire community instead of just those who buy into the notion of Dixie. It’s now all of St. George. It also gives us the potential to tie into the notoriety we get from Ironman (Triathlon) St. George, St. George Marathon, Huntsman [Senior] Games St. George, all the travelling that occurs from here to Zion Canyon, people see St. George. They don’t see ‘Dixie.’”
Mikesell said the dates for the DSCSA sponsored forums have not been set yet, but Dixie Sun News will keep readers updated as information becomes available.
Do you think “Dixie” should remain part of the college’s name? If not, do you have suggestions for another? Take the polls on our Facebook page.