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Discussions still underway on Dixie State name change bill

Posted at 10:26 AM, Feb 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-19 19:51:09-05

ST. GEORGE, Utah — Utah Senate leadership confirmed Friday that discussions surrounding the Dixie State University name change bill will continue after reports the bill was killed in a closed-door caucus.

The St. George News cited an anonymous source Thursday stating Senate leadership was not allowing the House Bill 278 to move forward, and voted in a closed caucus to not hear the bill on the floor.

Senate President J. Stuart Adams, along with Senators Don Ipson and majority leader Evan Vickers, told FOX 13 there are issues with the current language, but negotiations will continue.

WATCH: Why Utahns support or oppose renaming Dixie State University

"I think there is some challenges with it," Adams said. "I think we are trying to refine it and I think we'll probably work on trying to refine it."

Sen. Ipson added that talks with stakeholders will continue as lawmakers look to refine the bill.

"The situation is, is the people of the community and the university are a little bit at difference," Ipson said. "We're going to see if we can't work that out."

Despite Dixie State University's Board of Trustees, student body council and the Utah State Board of Education supporting the name change, more than 70 percent of southwestern Utah residents surveyed think removing 'Dixie' from the name will have a negative impact on the school.

Some have even started a GoFundMe campaign to stop the name change which, so far, has raised over $11,000.

WATCH: Dixie State name change recommended to Utah Legislature

"I think it's evident that the community is not ready to give up the name," Ipson added.

Jordan Sharp, the vice president of marketing and communication at DSU, said although there is hesitancy from the community to change the name, the move would be in the best interest of students, alumni and the university as a whole.

"The Dixie name has been great for the last hundred years," Sharp said. "Unfortunately, the double meanings of this term are causing serious and measurable problems for our alumni and students."

Sen. Ipson did not clarify what possible changes to the bill's language would look like following the continued negotiations.

"We understand the local term for Dixie. We live here, we love it, we understand it," Sharp added. "We just hope that others will at least appreciate and understand that not everyone feels that way."

With two weeks left in the 2021 general legislative session, Senate leadership says there is still enough time for negotiations and changes to be made.

READ: Dixie State University name change bill passes in Utah House

"It is a work in progress," Ipson said. "We will continue to work on it."

In a news conference Friday, Governor Cox said he would sign the bill if it does pass through the Senate. In a virtual meeting with reporters, Cox shared his belief that a name change is inevitable.

"If this university is going to become what we all believe it can become, and it wants to become, which I think is also very important, then a name change is going to happen," said Cox.