University talks change of marching band nickname

By News Editor Karah Wilson

A new study group is being formed to decide if the UNA marching band will remain “Pride of Dixie.” The group will include 19 members. The members will be faculty, staff, students, alumni and current and former band members. 

During the halftime show Sept. 8 at Alabama A&M, band director Lloyd Jones did not announce the band as the “Pride of Dixie,” a nickname given to the band in 1965 by a former band director. The band was referred to as “The Pride” for a short period in the 1980’s.

“We will see what the campus community and the study group feels about this and see what recommendations come out of it,” Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Ross Alexander said.

The “Dixie” part of the nickname was covered on the practice shirts the band wears. One band member confirmed the nickname “Pride of Dixie” is not anywhere on the band uniform. The student confirmed the “Pride of Dixie is written on a shirt all band members wear under the uniform. The shirt is not normally seen, but Jones told members they could take the uniform jacket off while practicing because of the heat.

Alexander said he understands students, alumni and community members might support the nickname, but he also understands there are students, faculty, alumni and community members that do not.

“It is time to have a discussion and dialogue about the band’s nickname moving forward,” Alexander said.

Jerome Saintjones, director of public affairs at Alabama A&M, said A&M was not made aware of the change. The announcer for A&M referred to UNA’s band as “Pride of Dixie” when announcing the band for the collaborative performance given by both bands during halftime.

“If the director of A&M does not have a problem saying ‘Pride of Dixie,’ our band director shouldn’t,” the band member said.

Alexander said the university made this decision out of respect for Alabama A&M and their mission and their history as a historically black college and university.

He said the decision became a catalyst into the opportunity to have a larger conversation about the band nickname issue.

“In this day and age with a some of the controversy surrounding a lot of labels and names, in the south and beyond, we felt it was the respectful thing to do,” Alexander said.

Alexander said UNA has a tradition of being a very inclusive and progressive university.

“We want all representatives, names and nicknames to reflect that tradition,” Alexander said. “The campus voice and community voice will be heard.”

Alexander said the expectations of feedback from the community is what was expected.

“UNA has strong tradition of having difficult conversations and making good decisions in a very inclusive, collaborative manner,” Alexander said. “Faculty, staff, students and community has come together to address much more difficult issues than this for the university. We want to be respectful of everyone’s input and opinion.”

Alexander said he cannot predict the process or timing of the change, if there will be one, but it is time to have a real conversation around the issue.

“We want to be respectful guests of any institution that we play in an athletic contest,” Alexander said. “We also want to be respectful hosts of any institution that we play in an athletic contest.”

In a message to band members, Jones told members of the band to be careful when speaking with media.

“Citizens have the right to free speech. That extends to our students,” Alexander said. “Our students are sophisticated and educated enough to form their own opinions.”

He said leaders and faculty members try to discuss difficult issues with students.

“In the grand scheme of things, we are talking about the nickname of a band,” Alexander said. “I think we all need to keep a little bit of prospective about the issues of the day and what’s of very high importance and what is not.”