The “D” on the Hill
Removing “Dixie” from Dixie State University: Another Sacrifice on the Altar of Woke
Author’s note: After a protracted process, the administration of Dixie State University in St. George, Utah voted on June 29, 2021 to change the school’s name, expressly to remove what they considered the tarnished word “Dixie” from its title. The replacement name selected was Utah Tech University. I completed the first draft of this brief essay late that night.
The lighted D on the hill looks forlorn, lonely tonight. I’ve been staring out my office window, watching for some evidence of the rain that had been forecast to briefly brush St. George this evening. But my eyes keep gravitating to the D. It seems distant, disrespected, oddly desolate, and certainly discarded. It looks all of those. It feels all of those.
And I feel the same way.
Then I step out of myself, an eight-year resident of St. George, and think of the people who organically attach to that D, those who have lived here, sweated here, carved out entire lifetimes here in Utah’s Dixie (no connection to the Confederate States or slavery) long before I showed up. And I know they feel it even more.
Sure, the school’s administration — our betters — claim to want to retain the D as a historical landmark, in honor of…something (obviously something they really wish would just go away). And, at the last minute of the committee meeting, they added “, Dixie Campus” to the new name, an appellation that will never be used. Those afterthoughts come across as yet another D…disingenuous. (‘Keep offering platitudes and crumbs…they’re simple people, they like platitudes and crumbs.’)
My heart goes back to Jerry Anderson, a local sculptor extraordinaire, and how he must have felt in 2012 when his exquisite and emotive statue, “The Rebels” — a large bronze with a Confederate soldier on a horse helping another soldier up from the ground — was banished from the Dixie State campus. Never mind that it had once been invited there by the very institution that could no longer tolerate it. I spoke with Mr. Anderson about that episode several years ago during the annual “Arts to Zion” art studio tour. Still crushed by his summary dismissal from polite society, he related to me, a complete stranger, how the agreement he had to sign to get the statue back required that he never move it within ten miles of the university campus. His magnum opus, built of love, admiration, and expert craftsmanship, was banished in the service of intolerance, judgmentalism, and a narrative. Political correctness could not countenance it, regardless of its intended symbolism of brotherhood. Some people — the important people — saw it as a symbol of hate and an obstacle to the university’s progress, so it had to go.
Now, political correctness, rebranded as wokeness, has demanded a still greater sacrifice — the very name and identity of the university itself.
You see, our betters have felt for a very long time that the word “Dixie” had to be exorcised from the school’s name. That much has been clear from the start of this nearly year-long saga (and much earlier, if you examine faculty comments from years prior). And last summer’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) uprising, an avowedly Marxist, anti-American movement masquerading as a civil rights reincarnation, provided the perfect cover, since the word “Dixie” implied racism (regardless of Dixie State’s reality). Cicero Group out of Salt Lake City was commissioned to collect and analyze data, and to do it before the drama died down (an oddly unscholarly thing for a university to do, skewing the data as it certainly would).
It happens there’s a lot in the Cicero study. But, among all that detail, three general conclusions scream out (there are other conclusions and other concerns, but I’ll focus on just three for now). And, in my view, a dispassionate reviewer could frankly be forgiven for concluding they’re fatal to the report’s validity. First are the highly questionable timing of the survey (as noted above), along with Cicero’s admitted inclusion of “contextualizing” conversations it conducted with respondents, conversations that clearly influenced answers, almost always in a negative way.
Second, the administration and faculty of DSU care very, very deeply about how they’re personally viewed in their profession and by their peers, and that concern largely drives their animus toward the word Dixie. (Which makes sense, as virtually all of academia is a woke mosh pit, where there is but one orthodoxy, and all must hue to that anointed groupthink.)
Third, some of the most critical and oft-cited results (such as the one that says 22% of respondents have “concerns” over employment because of their ties to Dixie State) are squishy at best and are actually belied by the report’s own data. In the case of job prospects, for example, the report shows that only 2% of respondents (both among faculty and students reported separately) actually stated that “‘Dixie’ has precluded me from an interview and/or offer.” Statistically speaking, 2% would often not even be considered worthy of mention. (Interestingly, in its abundant commentary on the entire issue and its reliance on “data”, DSU’s administration fails to draw out this inconvenient finding, one not based in “concern” but in actual outcomes.)
As I look up again at the D on the hill, I find myself thinking it would be incredibly interesting to see (1) the results of essentially the same survey had it been conducted prior to George Floyd’s death, minus the contextualizing elements interjected by Cicero during the interviews, and (2) how the entire months-long name change conversation might have gone had the true impact on job opportunities (a factor on which the school’s administration placed substantial attention) been as aggressively focused on as were the ill-defined “concerns” (or, better said, ‘fears arising from the hyper-racial moment in which we find ourselves’) touted to support the administration’s preordained name change outcome.
It’s getting really late, and still but few raindrops have glanced off my office window. I decide to call it a night. As I stand up to head for bed, my mind drifts back once more to Mr. Anderson. In an interview with the St. George News in January 2015, he stated that his statue “was created in behalf of the people in all the wars,” regardless of their flag. “The base and the heart of it was one man helping another man in the field of battle. The flag [in the statue] itself is meaningless,” he said, adding that people attach political correctness to everything, whether the flag was Confederate, German, American, or otherwise. Jerry was prescient, but in a way he might have found difficult to imagine. Look how even the American flag — and respect for it — is disparaged today, in the vilest of ways, and especially as part of, and in the wake of, the BLM riots that very possibly had an outsized impact on the Dixie State University name change effort.
Now drifting off to sleep with the D on the hill out of sight, I’m struck by the feeling that the university itself — not just the name — suddenly seems foreign, no longer a member of the local community, but, inexplicably, an intruder. Like a transplant replacing a normally functioning organ in a healthy body. Not really part of us anymore. Just…there.