Student and faculty efforts are being made to either change or keep Dixie State University’s name over concerns the word “Dixie” may be racist.
The controversy over what “Dixie” means was an issue in 2012 when it was announced the campus would become a university. This created heavy debate on and off campus; however, no name change went into effect. The word “Dixie” was first mentioned in a song before becoming a reference to the Confederate States of America, which many view as a symbol of hate and racism.
Dannelle Larsen-Rife, an associate social sciences professor, said she is for the name change because of diversity issues and minority rights.
“One of the concerns I have is unintentional institutional racism,” Larsen-Rife said. “I have a concern that [the name ‘Dixie’] privileges one heritage or one race over others. This could be one of the barriers for minorities in education. People have contacted me and said, ‘I thought about going to DSU but wouldn’t because of the name’ or ‘I thought about teaching there but would not apply because of the name.’”
Larsen-Rife said the motivation for her stance is inspired by students and the community alike.
“My motivation is to promote the best interest of the students in the institution,” Larsen-Rife said. “I think putting our best foot forward and representing all of our students and all of our faculty and everybody in this community in the most positive way is an important thing.”
Larsen-Rife wrote a letter to the editor in The Spectrum seeking a discussion on the issue; however, she is not actively promoting the issue. She said she is more than willing to discuss the name change given its importance.
Hannah Durant, a sophomore criminology major from Elkton, Maryland, discourages the name change because of St. George’s strong sense of community and history.
“Anytime I walk down the street, the community has something ‘Dixie’ because they went to [DSU] or their ancestors went to [DSU],” Durant said. “The community is very involved, and the name change would impact them greatly.”
Durant said Dean of Students Del Beatty partly motivated her stance against the name change.
“Beatty (told me he) asked a woman from Alabama what Dixie means to her, and she said ‘warm weather and good people,’” Durant said. “And to me, that’s what Dixie does mean: warm weather and good people. There’s a lot of good people here.”
Durant, along with a few other students, manages social media accounts in favor of keeping Dixie’s name. Physically representing their stance on campus is something she said they aren’t thinking about right now.
Public Relations Director Jyl Hall said DSU is not considering a name change at this time.