OXFORD – University of Mississippi fans won’t be hearing the sports-time medley “From Dixie With Love” after its ban Tuesday by Chancellor Dan Jones.
Jones recently issued a warning to those who were chanting “The South will rise again” during the song as it was being played at football games. If the chant didn’t stop, he said, he would ask the band to stop playing the tune.
But the phrase was chanted again during Saturday’s game against Northern Arizona, and Jones said Tuesday he is following through on his promise.
“Let me be clear, all leaders of this vibrant, diverse, modern university long ago denounced any association with those who espouse segregation,” Jones said in a letter to the Ole Miss community.
He also assured them his decision was not the first step toward changing other traditions.
“We will remain the Ole Miss Rebels,” said Jones, who took the helm July 1 after serving as vice chancellor for health affairs and head of the University Medical Center.
But, he added, the university traditions he supports are those “reflected in the Ole Miss Creed: dedication to an open and diverse community, respect for the dignity of each person, and fairness and civility.”
Objections to the chant became public several weeks ago and resulted in a student-led initiative against divisive and hurtful language in the Ole Miss community.
Jones supported to the initiative and asked for the chants to stop.
The Faculty Senate and others agreed, including athletics leaders and well-known alumni like business executive Jim Barksdale and FoxNews anchor Shepherd Smith.
“The chancellor very clearly told folks what he’d do if they didn’t stop, and he’s a man of his word,” said Dr. Ken Sufka, president of the Faculty Senate.
The chant “goes against who we are.”
Smith even posted an anti-chant video on YouTube, explaining why he believed the chant was harmful to Ole Miss.
Jones’ letter also said that if the chant stops and the students’ elected leaders ask for its revival, he’ll reconsider the song’s status.
The song blending “Dixie,” “All My Trials” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was arranged by Dr. Dwayne Sagen when he was Ole Miss band assistant director and chairman of the Music Department in the early 1980s. He’s now Vanderbilt University’s director of bands.
Although Sagen couldn’t be reached by the Daily Journal, he’s believed to have put the medley together as a more appropriate serenade than “Dixie,” which had become offensive to many people after the Civil Rights era.
Guntown’s Artair Rogers, president of the Associated Student Body, said he understands why Jones put the song on ice.
“He feels the chant is very negative toward the university,” Rogers said from campus.
Rogers also said the public’s perception of the university is important, as well as to “protect its reputation and character.”
Jones, who earned his undergraduate degree from Mississippi College, replaced Chancellor Robert Khayat after 14 years at his alma mater’s helm. Jones received his medical degree from UMC in 1975.
Khayat, who played football under coaching legend Johnny Vaught, was criticized when he banned sticks in the stadium to curtail the appearance of Rebel flags at the request of then-Head Football Coach Tommy Tuberville.
Tuberville said the vestiges of the Confederacy and the racist associations were hurting his program.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
An African-American senior biology major from North Carolina who would not give his name:
I guess they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do. If they keep saying (the chant) at the end and (administrators) don’t agree with it, you’ve got to do what the school says. I understand why they (pulled the song), but I don’t agree with it. For the students, they don’t see it as a big problem, but the administrators see it as a bigger issue. The students see it as tradition, and the administrators see it as politics.
Debbie Hughes, Caucasian, history instructor, moved from Panama City, Fla., by way of Illinois:
I just moved here; I’m not from Mississippi. I don’t have deep, traditional roots, so my heart doesn’t pine for a past that no longer exists. I think (the chant) should be removed. I don’t think it represents the state very well – as an outsider that had to come to terms with moving here and appreciating the town and community in its own right, I actually think it’s a very negative symbol. It gives the community a bad rap. I don’t think (the song) matters to me so much. The phrasing (of the chant) from an outsider’s perspective is an immediate reminder of the negative elements that this community still has to deal with. I personally think that the community is better than the reputation than people hold of it, and (we should promote) anything that can help make the community, give it its due and make it a more popular place.
Colten Bishop, Caucasian, freshman biochemistry major from DeWitt, Ark.:
It’s a tradition. Why change it now? But I don’t have a whole lot (of opinion) on it. I never paid attention to it. I try to stay out of it.
Christi Keel, Caucasian, sophomore exercise science major from Lambert: It makes me sad. I’m big on tradition. I guess there are some bad traditions, but I have the feeling by the time my kids get to Ole Miss, it won’t be Ole Miss anymore. They’ve changed everything: They took our flag a long time ago. I’ve said (the chant) at the games. I’m not thinking about that when I saw it; I’m saying maybe Ole Miss will be finally be good in football again. That’s what I’m thinking. Some people may not be.
African student who would not give any identifying information:
I don’t pay much attention to it. It doesn’t matter to me as much as it does to some people.
Andrijana Nikic, Caucasian, junior political science major from Montenegro, which is part of the former Yugoslavia:
(Pulling the song) is good thing, because if you see that the South was about slavery and discrimination, it’s stupid to say ‘The South will rise again.’
Wesley McGee, Caucasian, sophomore political science major from Myrtle:
Times and meanings change. The meaning of ‘The South will rise again’ has changed. We’ll rise back from being one of the poorest states in the Union; we’ll rise back from having low literacy rates: That’s what I believe the meaning is. And as for the Rebel football team, it’s like we’ll quit sucking on the football field – which has failed to happen, but still …
Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal