‘I am very saddened by this decision’: Ole Miss students respond to the death of ‘Dixie’

The marching band will no longer play the iconic song in their pregame performance

The Pride of the South has finally laid “Dixie” to rest.

Upon Athletic Director Ross Bjork’s announcement on August 19, the marching band will no longer include the melody of the once de facto anthem of the Confederacy in their traditional pregame performance. The decision, made solely by the Athletic Department, immediately received both outrage and praise from students, faculty, alumni, and fans alike.

While this strategic departure from the school’s Confederate history is nothing new—the removal of Colonel Reb and the Mississippi State Flag, as well as the changing of several street names on campus preceded Dixie’s ban—the decision shocked many members of the Ole Miss community. Banning this particular tradition seems to have encroached upon a line that administrators at the University have been trying to demarcate since the racially charged riot of 1962—a line between burying the school’s painful history and forging a more inclusive future.

We spoke to several students to gauge their reactions to the controversial decision.

Ben Branson, 21, Mechanical Engineering

“I was born and raised in Mississippi, and not once has “Dixie” been a song of heritage or fondness. It is an anthem rooted in antiquity, in a failed and morally wrong system. When I chose to attend the University of Mississippi, it was not to be part of a last holdout for all things of “the old South,” but to be part of progress, both personal and societal. I would like my university to define itself by accomplishments, not traditions.

“I do not wish to cover up the past. But why are we branding ourselves with it? Sure, “Dixie” is a catchy tune. But there are thousands of catchy tunes. Let’s choose one that inspires everyone on campus.”

Tiffany Cherry, 19, Elementary Education

“There’s the whole drama about having to remove the flag and all this big stuff and [the song’s] just another topic that can begin to cause all this chaos, so I think it’s best for it to be removed. So many people have so many thoughts and that’s a part of being a student at Ole miss, you know, everybody’s gonna have their own opinion but at the same time—sometimes you have to learn to deal with certain things because not everything is gonna go in your favor. And that’s part of being an adult and growing up and learning that everything you see is not gonna be, you know, you’re not going to be in agreement with, sometimes it just doesn’t happen…I wouldn’t say that I’m super like, “take that shit down!”

“I wouldn’t say I’m super offended by [the song], but I think it’s better for other people that it was [banned], cause we’re all about everyone coming together as one at the University of Mississippi, we’re all colleagues, and you want—most importantly you just want people to feel comfortable where they are and, you know, I feel comfortable enough, like 100%, but I mean with other people it’s different.”

Alexandra Rapadas, 21, Hospitality Management

“I’m not really against [the decision] or for it. I think it’s definitely taking away from tradition, but these days every little issue becomes controversial, it’s hard to tell which ones really matter.”

Daniel Orse, 21, Marketing

“As a student from across the country that came to Ole Miss excited to experience the traditions that Ole Miss is known for, I am very saddened by this decision. I am also a senior and I have watched Ole Miss lose more and more traditions just in my four short years here. I hope that Ole Miss doesn’t continue to end the great traditions that this school has carried on for so long. I will always be proud to be an Ole Miss Rebel either way.”

Trey Ellis, 21, former student from Savannah, Georgia

“In the South, College Football is like a religion. Millions of followers flock to their stadiums each Saturday in the fall to be a part of the communal experience. We have battle hymns. They transfer emotions from the crowd into the players. The removal of Dixie in the Grove is like removing Silent Night on Christmas Eve.

“I think next to Faulkner’s grave needs to be placed two tombstones “Colonel Reb” and “Dixie.”

Kalah Walker, 21, Integrated Marketing Communications

“I was never offended by the song itself, but it is associated with, you know, the Confederacy and slavery and in that association I see why people want it gone. I recognize that it’s a controversial cause and there are so many different opinions about it. I think when you look at the big picture, which the university has been doing a lot lately, it’s better to move forward in the right direction.

“[The University’s] looking at it from a PR perspective and how they’re trying to form their image so I definitely think removing Dixie is part of improving that image.”

Megan Meyers, 21, Broadcast Journalism

“I don’t really care that much but [the ban] does feel like it’s taking away from tradition. But, you know, it is a controversial song and if the University want’s to get rid of it, that’s their choice”

One band member confirmed that the pregame show would be no less inspiring then before: “The Dixie melody that was at the end of swing low was replaced by a motive that sounds like it came from “I saw the light.” There are some new things added into swing low, but it’s not completely new. Other than those small changes, there aren’t many differences. We are still doing Rock N Roll. We are still spelling out Ole Miss in the drill and we will still make the M.”

From all objective standards, the removal of Dixie is, if not laudable, at least reasonable. Any movement away from the past, supporters of the decision might argue, is a positive move toward an inclusive future. Still, the manner in which it was removed and the arguably benign quality of this particular tradition—a simple melody—deserve serious reflection. Any ban on music brings communities to the precipice of a slippery slope. The illiberal process of banning Dixie only serves to grease the runway.

Let’s keep things in perspective though. The removal of a song (and only from athletic events), especially one that has the potential to offend members of the community for which it is played, is no tragedy. Ross Bjork is no despot. The traditions that truly make Ole Miss a home to so many are alive and well; one need only to look into the smiling faces in the grove as they cheer “Hotty Toddy” together to be reminded that the spirit of the University transcends pregame shows, fried chicken on silver platters, and yes, even football.

Ole Miss: University of Mississippi