SALT LAKE CITY — In a close vote, the Utah State Senate passed a bill renaming Dixie State University to "Utah Tech University."
Senators voted 17-12 to rename the university, moving away from connotations with the Civil War South and the Confederacy. It was not after some tense debate with a few senators decrying "cancel culture."
"I'm tired of this cancel culture going on in making things that are beloved something we hate," Sen. John Johnson, R-North Ogden, said.
The issue has deeply divided the St. George area, with some pushing to keep the name. They say the name hearkens back to Mormon pioneers who settled the area to grow cotton.
Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, was somber as he described southwestern Utah residents who opposed it.
"The idea of ripping away the name of their school is indeed heartwrenching," he told his colleagues.
But supporters of the name change say the name "Dixie" has connotations to the Civil War Confederacy. Students have said they're tired of trying to explain the nuance of the name in Utah, while others pointed to the university's own past with racist images and Confederate flags on campus.
For senators supporting a name change, it was about the future. The university is going to be technology-focused. Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, argued that it was a brand and marketing issue.
"If this was a company? It would have changed a long time ago," he said.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, pointed out that others have moved away from the "Dixie" name because of negative connotations. He pointed to the band "The Chicks" and even Dolly Parton, who got rid of her "Dixie Stampede" at Dollywood. Quoting Dolly Parton, Sen. Weiler said: "If something is a problem, you should fix it. Don't be a dumbass."
The bill passed the Utah House of Representatives earlier Wednesday on a 56-15 vote. It was a vigorous debate in that chamber as well.
Earlier Wednesday, Senate President J. Stuart Adams questioned if the bill had the support to pass. However, Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, who sponsored the bill, told FOX 13 that he believed he did.
The bill now goes to Governor Spencer Cox for his signature. The governor has previously told FOX 13 he supports the name change.