Letter to the Editor: Trailblazing who we are; professor challenges name ‘Dixie’

Image by St. George News

OPINION — When I applied for the position at Dixie State College of Utah, my Ph.D. advisor who was going to write a reference letter for me asked in puzzlement, “why do they call themselves that?” At the time, I didn’t have an answer.

1trailblazersNow, I have lived in St. George for four years and I have learned all about the Anasazi, the cotton mill, the encampment mall, et cetera. In light of the new Trailblazer identity, and some bustling comments from Rebel nostalgics, I would like to contribute my 2 cents on the identity of the university that I hold dear to my heart.

I understand, at this point, the “D” is to stay and, I believe, so should the discussion and critical reflection of who we are.

The “Dixie Identity” argument

“Why do they call themselves that?” This is a question many many future employers will ask when they see our graduates’ resumés. Unfortunately, it is not likely that the applicant, a promising DSU graduate, will have a chance to give a lecture on the history of Southern Utah.

Words are innocent and we give them meanings. More importantly, we compete over the meanings.

For Utah’s Dixie, the “D” is a symbol of geography, the community’s identity and affection, though early settlers did include slave owners. But the word also exists in a context that is way larger, way more significant, and way more recognized beyond the black ridge or the “Sugarloaf.”

The American South, the confederacy, and African Americans’ suffering of slavery behind the word outweigh our local construction of the meaning. This does not nullify the unique identity of Southern Utah. But when we open the door to the world, like it or not, we must acknowledge the broader connotations and the historical baggage the word carries.

Our students travel the nation and the world. Dropping “Dixie” in the university’s name will unburden our hardworking students from the misunderstanding and the constant explanations that they are lucky to even have a chance to provide. They will still be the children of Utah’s Dixie, but many of them will also have a life way beyond this region.

The “Dixie Cup” argument

An often-heard argument against the name change is, “Would you make Dixie Cup change their brand too?”

No. At least I won’t. Dixie Cup is a commercial company whose entire mission is maximizing profit (it belongs to Koch Brothers). Corporate’s socially progressive decisions are ultimately calculated branding strategy for a company’s long term prosperity and reputation. Dixie Cup has the right to use any term as long as it deems it commercially worthy.

A university, on the other hand, is not a profit-calculating shrewd business. It is the cultivator of critical thinkers and the advocate of higher moral standard – (sorry, I do not agree with the vocational-school model of higher education). Therefore, while Dixie Cup can keep the D-word until the day when it starts to hurt the profit, a university should drop the word as early as possible to avoid an ambiguous or hypocritical moral gesture.

The encampment mall will still be there, the D can still be lit red during homecoming week as a symbol of the community, dropping “Dixie” from the university’s name could be the greatest lesson we offer to our students about how we value the morality that makes the nation great.

The “Dixie Tradition” argument

We value traditions. However, when it comes to history, we, who are not historians, tend to be shortsighted. In fact, today’s tradition is yesterday’s change and we make traditions for our future generations.

For those who think dropping “Dixie” violates tradition, let’s venture back to 1911, or even 1888, when the institution was founded. It was called “St. George Stake Academy.” Did people object to the name change to “Dixie Normal College” in 1916? Maybe. But the college had changed, so followed the name. In 2016, has the world changed? Have we changed? Has the university changed?

A name change is not because of how long we have been using it, but because of the mission of the institution and its relationship to the world. After all, if we did adopt “St. George State University,” what could embody the community’s identity and tradition better than naming the university after it?

Identity is a process, a journey and a trailblazing exploration. We trailblaze, therefore we are, not because of the path we follow, but the path we leave. Go Brooks!

Submitted by Xi Cui, St. George. Xi Cui is a faculty member a Dixie State University

Letters to the Editor are not the product or opinion of St. George News. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.


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  • JJ April 18, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Another point that people leave out is how weird it is to name your university after a regional nickname, and how it’s even weirder when that nickname is copied from an entirely different place. The Price/ Castle Dale area is known for its coal mining, much like the Appalachia area of Kentucky and West Virginia. Should we call Carbon County “Utah’s Appalachia” and change the name of their college to Appalachia State? No, because it would be a ridiculous name and a confusing one at that. Just like Dixie State. There is no difference.

  • Stacia April 18, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    Thank you for clearly spelling out, for all of us pee-on alumni, the sad, politically correct and man fearing state of mind that now plagues our beloved alma mater… This kind of regurgitation of thought is exactly what I try to extract from the minds of my impressionable daughters on a daily basis, when returning home from public screwals… And to think that bison aren’t even brown anymore… Racism will only live, so long as ignorance is tooled in such a fashion as to make it useful to an agenda!

  • NotSoFast April 18, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    Mr. Cui, A name is just a name. Get over it.
    Example: Why do they continue to call the nations capital Washington DC? ‘O’ George has been dead for a long time. Why don’t they just rename it to something more in touch or politically correct? How about ‘Obama Town’?
    And while your at it— Don’t you think your own name, Xi Cui is a little too old Asian sounding to make the locals more at rest when they address you?
    Have you ever considered changing it to say, Joe? Would it not make some college administrators job a little easier and maybe put a smile on their face? ‘Hey JOE! There’s a opening coming up that’s right down your alley. Of course you might have to move to Obama town for a while.

  • maxprof April 19, 2016 at 12:15 am

    Oh, no! We Southern Utahns, proud graduates of DSU (er, DSC), can’t be bothered about graduates who might stray from the farm (er, plantation), seeking opportunities out “there”! Gee, those of us who have remained true to the homeland are just fine.

  • maxprof April 19, 2016 at 12:16 am

    Great op-ed, by the way!

  • Hugh Jass April 19, 2016 at 8:15 am

    I think Mr Cui should change his name from Eleven (XI) to Thirteen (XIIV). He’s thinking like an idiot teenager

  • Nathan April 19, 2016 at 8:49 am

    Professor, did you or did you not know the name of the university when you applied to work here? If you knew and found the name so offensive, why did you apply? If you did not know why did you not depart after learning the name?
    Is there ANY evidence of slave ownership by ANYONE during the cotton mission? Not previous transgressions, but actually owning of slaves here in Southern Utah? Settlers and pioneers naming or nicknaming their new home after the place they came from occurred since colonial times (New York, New Orleans come easily to mind). It helped them feel more at home in their new and strange surroundings.
    As to your claim that alumni constantly have to explain why their Alma matter was named Dixie, I very much doubt this, and you have provided no evidence to support the claim. Unless an applicant went to an Ivy League school most employers only care that the applicant know enough to do the job they hired for. And after the first job they look at work experience, not where the prospect went to school.
    I think the constant focus you have on changing the name Dixie is more about you, your personal self-aggrandizement and making a name for yourself as some sort of social justice warrior than any care you may have for the students and graduates of Dixie State University.

  • Eddieboy April 19, 2016 at 9:26 am

    Oh my Lord people, give it a rest! Mr. Xi Cui Ph.D, how bout sticking with educating young minds and drawing a paycheck from “DIXIE” State University? Unless your Doctorate is in Progressive Ideology, stick to what you do best.

  • dogmatic April 19, 2016 at 10:35 am

    Zi Cui , when I first read your name, I was uncomfortable with it and tried to pronounce it in a way that was familiar, and if I recognized you on the street I would probably say hey you, instead of your name do to fear of saying your name wrong. By the way my auto correct doesn’t capitalize your name.
    If you changed your name to Jones are Anderson I would feel better.
    But one think I would not do is go to the country you are from and say that.

  • dogmatic April 19, 2016 at 10:40 am

    Wake up zi, it’s a big world

  • maggie April 19, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    I am thinking perhaps some of the faculty at DSU (and some other universities) do not have enough to do. Who is hiring them? If indeed we would truly educate our children,not indoctrinate them, perhaps we would NOT need to hire as many foreign workers who appear to have problems with our history. Same people usually came from countries that never overcame the barbarism of communism or socialism . Perhaps these scars leave people with the burden of not being able to see the struggle America has gone through to overcome our past .
    Our history is a reminder of our lack of perfection ,that we have no desire to hide . That is part of our freedom in this country. We have warts, and for several generations we have tried to become better people and not pass them on to our children,being careful to preserve our history in order to learn and grow.
    There is no sense arguing with any of these people,it is a waste of time! Cui’s point regarding future employers of DSU graduates asking “Why do they call themselves that?” is a different approach but not very valid . No one ever asked me that …….anyone else ever asked that question? Not sure I would want to work for them if they did!
    The Koch brothers comment re Dixie Cup ownership kind of brought this down to the level of discussion it is, political ,not educational or historical . Well, that and the insult to vocational -school education. That is another wonderful thing about America…most of us ,other than evidently some academia,do not look down on anyone of any color,nationality or sex for choosing a path in life to be self-sufficient,to grow as an individual and contribute to family,community, and country ,sometimes that is an alternative path to a university education.
    Thinking twice about grandchildren going to Dixie….think some of you are losing your grip re what should be taught. If I am wrong would love to hear from some administrators and educators why I am wrong! Seems we never hear from anyone but the people who like to point to problems. Some of which I am certain exist, or maybe not and that is why some makeup name problems.

  • DB April 19, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    Didn’t we all just go over this a couple years ago? I’ll reread your article, but you didn’t seem to have an alternative name. SUU is already taken. Suggest a name that is ‘PC’ AND will impress some New York law firm 🙂

  • NZT April 19, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    University of Utah St. George is very PC and is also impressive to the rest of the country. By the name you know that the university is in St George Utah (geography) and is part of the University of Utah system which has nationwide name recognition.

  • voice of reason April 19, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    I just want to thank all the brilliant alumni who have so eloquently proven Mr. Cui’s point. Hold onto the past. Hold onto to your monuments to bigotry and slavery. As a region, continue to prop up the racists, child molesters and pedophiles that you are so quick to excuse. You ought to erect a few Confederate flags to complete the regional look.

  • dogmatic April 20, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    Voice of reason, your comments was so wrong it’s pathetic. If you study Saint George history in the 1860s you will find that you are the bigot .
    It’s was named Utah Dixie because of the cotton .
    No slaves, they picked their own cotton.
    The rebel mascot was innocently picked by the Alumni because of the name Dixie .
    It’s my history it’s my routes and I never connected it to slavery until bigots like you pointed it out.
    So go back to your own routes in la la land.

    • Rainbow Dash April 21, 2016 at 9:48 am

      dogmatic: This was taken from Utah.gov

      Although the practice was never widespread, some Utah pioneers held African-American slaves until 1862 when Congress abolished slavery in the territories. Three slaves, Green Flake, Hark Lay, and Oscar Crosby, came west with the first pioneer company in 1847, and their names appear on a plaque on the Brigham Young Monument in downtown Salt Lake City. The Census of 1850 reported 26 Negro slaves in Utah and the 1860 Census 29; some have questioned those figures.

    • voice of reason April 21, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      *roots. the word is roots. You might want to study English. My family roots are deep in this region. I guarantee they are as deep as yours. I’m sorry you’ve never been able to look at your family legacy with your eyes wide open.

  • Keith April 21, 2016 at 9:04 am

    As a part time instructor at Dixie State, I am amazed at how some thinking can choose to find significance in a rabbit hole. Many academics teach political correctness but students are still not prepared to handle office politics. Higher education pretends to support cultural diversity but it refuses to support ideological tolerance. Many educators advocate for social justice but refuse to accept any democratic dissent. Dixie is not an intolerant word. Only politically correct Nazis have made this word intolerable. The word Dixie is derived from Dix in French, meaning “10.” Dixies were ten dollar notes issued by the Citizens State Bank in the French Quarter of New Orleans. This is why they called the area in the far south Dixie Land. In my book, Dixie State is a ten and this is our own Dixie Land. Welcome to the return of civil secession. Globalist thinking can take a hike. Follow me at The Genuine Optimist.

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