ON Kilter: Standing on the shoulders of giants

OPINION – The Fourth Annual DOCUTAH International Documentary Film Festival has drawn to a close, and in its relatively successful passing, some things may be gleaned from it, going forward.

Things like trying to remember not to pass a collection plate around after a film is shown.

OK, I digress a little there but it is worth noting that the festival has now reached a level where honest criticism comes as well as plaudit and praise. This is a sign, believe it or not, that it has come of age somewhat to being a real contender in the documentary film festival genre.

Anyone can press ahead, lauded with affirmation of a job well done, but every writer and filmmaker knows that it’s the honest critics who make them better. And the festival handled both accolade and criticism with professionalism and class. Expect nothing but more good things from this local event in years to come.

But, to be true, the real goodness of this festival is in the films and their makers.

It is to this I wish to speak.

I had the opportunity to meet the subject of the film, “An Ordinary Hero.” Her name is Joan Trumpauer Mulholland and by all accounts, she is an exemplary person. She certainly does not think so however. When the issue before her presented as a choice of what side of the civil-rights battle to be on, it was no decision at all.

Like so many Americans of our great lore, she forsook her own liberty and security to stand in the face of those who would take both from her for simply standing for the rights of others to have the same.

Even to the point of death row.

I asked Mulholland if she thought her work was carrying on through the years. Had the road that she and so many civil-rights activists paved been traveled upon much? She acquiesced that perhaps it had not been as much as it could or should be.

You see, she, like me, sees what is happening in our country: Our liberty remains, as Thomas Jefferson put it, the essence of the republic we may not yet keep.

We spoke of the Patriot Act, of drones, and of how government surveillance had become more powerful than they could have dreamed of in her day.

I think she, like me, would contend that the Founders of this land are turning in their graves – I know we are turning before we even reach our own.

As she walked away, my admiration of Mulholland turned to a thought from our conversation and a nagging question: Are there any such ordinary heroes today?

I thought of Indigo Klabanoff.

Klabanoff is a young woman and college student, resolute and ardent in her fervor to bring a club bearing Greek letters to the campus at Dixie State University. Exercising her student rights to freedom of expression and association in accordance with the First Amendment, and contending that DSU has a legal and moral obligation under the federal law not to interfere, she has instead been flat-out denied this right and the university administration has enacted suspicious and egregious policy amendments on-the-fly to cover themselves and their preferences. In addition, they have threatened her that if she continues, the campus security and their lawyers may take action, and her academic standing would be in jeopardy.

While it is not likely that she will end up on death row, she is certainly in a fight with a group of people as resolute as she is in their determination to disavow the law of the land in favor of the law of fabricated and fictitious policy.

Her’s is not an isolated case either, but she stands on the shoulders of giants, and if you ask me, does them proud.

Art imitates life. This is why the documentary film has such power in the collective psyche of the audience. Drawn into a story of a real person or event, parallels are drawn to our own stories and we are moved to action.

I wonder if Joan and Indigo met. And if so, I wonder what they talked about.

They have a lot in common.

See you out there.


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

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @dallashyland

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.


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  • Parry September 9, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Its not uncommon for universities to say “no” to Greek life on their campuses. These types of policies are all at schools over the country, even at the most prestigious and leading universities, such as Princeton. And if Dixie hasn’t faced the issue of implementing Greek life before, there is nothing wrong with creating a policy at that point, if they do indeed follow the regular protocol of discussion and voting on an issue once the item comes up.
    Greek life is a service an institution can offer, if they wish.

  • Dave September 9, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Honestly, to compare the story and courage of Joan Trumpauer’s fight for civil rights to the story of Indigo and her desire to bring a Greek sorority to DSU is a little over the top. Are you then comparing DSU Administrators to the racist and bigoted Southerners of the 1960’s? I think the comparison is an unfair stretch.

    • Perry September 9, 2013 at 10:54 pm

      I’ve read a number of his articles (its hard to not peek when you try to look away). He rarely thinks these things through before he writes. And if you spell out the logical jumps (better described as gigantic leaps) he makes without an ability for providing detail, you’re all of a sudden a cronie working for the southern Utah mafia.

      • MShabazz September 12, 2013 at 9:02 pm

        How dare he offer a view different from the norm of the region, right?

  • Just an Observer September 9, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Like so many arguments that are prevalent in this area, yours is hollow. Princeton is a private university. DSU is public. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has outlined in a letter to DSU that their policies are preferential and in direct violation of federal law. What they have done to this young woman is a violation of her protections under the Bill of Rights. Period. Your assertion that they may choose to allow this or not is false. Furthermore, you assert that Greek life is a service offered. You are wrong. Greek life , sorority’s and fraternity’s are clubs.

    To infer that there a precedent under law that protects DSU from this is wrong and indicates a fundamental lack of understanding of the laws of our land. Furthermore, it attempts to negate other serious issues, such as threats of intimidation made to this student by the administration, the police on campus, and the legal team, all of whom also do not understand the laws they are violating.

    This campus has a serious track record of this and the writer is correct, this is not an isolated incident. FIRE will likely be looking into other cases as well.

    This case has the potential to make the name change debacle look like kids stuff.

    Time to grow up DSU.

    • Perry September 9, 2013 at 11:08 pm

      You make some interesting points, but sororities and fraternities are usually privately funded. That kind of money is not easy to raise. I imagine they would also like to build a 60K seating football stadium, but anyone who has worked in an organization knows that money doesn’t fall off trees for every little thing everybody wants.
      What is so awful about Dixie College? People around here seem to love Dixie as part of the community!

    • MShabazz September 12, 2013 at 9:05 pm


      So an outside entity will be looking into this? Wow, I’m impressed. This should be all over our local news outlets. Every since the whole “Confederacy” fiasco, Dixie has been on radar. Dixie deciding to step into the realm of University status. It’s a whole new ballpark. No more small-town, good ole boy community college. And if there’s one thing that the good ole boys hate, it’s our image as a “perfect” city being tarnished in the eyes of the public. This is gonna be huge. Finally warrant some long time needed change.

      • Perry September 13, 2013 at 7:50 am

        I looked at that FIRE organization. Take a look at the list of institutions they have put under “FIRE.” Its practically every school in the nation. The most entertaining is their attack on Villanova over “freedom of speech” for not allowing a lewd and racy performance to be held on their private property, Catholic values campus. “How dare they not let anything goes!!!!”
        Freedom of speech does not mean you can do whatever you want wherever you want, especially on private property, in the case of the private schools–which they cannot leave alone.

        • philiplo September 13, 2013 at 10:27 am

          Perry, the letter to Villanova was in reference to cancellation of an event that had previously been approved and scheduled. At the time of cancellation, the university said the decision was based on past performances by the artist facilitating the show. This, however, was not going to be a performance by that artist. Rather, he was planning on conducting a workshop, in which he would be coaching students in the development of their own performance pieces. There was no (published) evidence of anything “lewd and racy,” most likely because nothing had yet been created.
          You should note that FIRE did not propose any legal action against the university. What they did was send a letter to the school administrators, asking them to reconsider their decision and to make their policies clear to all faculty so future disputes could be avoided.
          Perhaps a better solution for the university would have been to issue guidelines for such workshops, and to remind faculty and students of their responsibility to uphold the values of the institution. Cancellation was a harsh move, with only speculation to back it up.

          • Perry September 13, 2013 at 2:43 pm

            That is some good clarification on that one incident. Thank you. Nonetheless, FIRE is still stretching it. I’m certain if they were to cite, interview, seek clarification from the other sides’ perspectives, there would be more thorough context.
            They seem much more interested in having headlines than looking into issues, considering their described methodology.

  • NO_SIX September 10, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Just curious — exactly what “laws” are DSU violating ??

  • Jeff Peterson November 6, 2013 at 12:28 pm


    Please sign this petition if you support Indigo’s fight for equality of representation at Dixie State.

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