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Dixie State students travel to SLC to urge Utah senators to hear name change bill

Posted at 6:04 AM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 11:17:59-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A group of Dixie State University students is traveling from St. George to Salt Lake City Wednesday to urge the Utah Senate not to table House Bill 278, which would require the school's Board of Trustees and the Education Interim Committee to move forward in renaming the school.

Dixie State's own Board of Trustees, student body association and the Utah Board of Higher Education voted unanimously to dump the "Dixie" name. They have argued the name is starting to impact recruitment and retention of students and faculty from outside Utah.

Dixie State University Student Body President Penny Mills invited her fellow students to join Wednesday's protest at the Utah State Capitol.

Earlier this month, the bill passed the Utah House of Representatives after a heated debate and a 51-20 vote. But anonymous sources told The Salt Lake Tribune that members of the GOP caucus for the Utah Senate voted this week not to assign the bill to a committee, the next step for the measure to move forward.

"Those sources, who are not authorized to talk about the confidential meetings and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the intent is to kill the bill and wait until next year to bring it up again," a report from the Tribune says.

A university spokeswoman dispelled a rumor that the students who participated in Wednesday's event were paid to do so.

"Every year, the student body president has funds available for presidential initiatives. This year, Student Body President Penny Mills decided to use some of those funds to rent a University bus to take students to the capitol. Funds are being used for the bus and to cover students’ food for the day. That is all. Students are not receiving any money," said Jyl Hall, PR director for Dixie State, in a message sent to FOX 13. "Additionally, this rally is to encourage the Senate to hear HB 278 on the Senate floor and spots on the bus were open to all students, regardless of what they think of the recommended name change."

Dixie State University released the following statement:

Dixie State University is encouraged that the Utah Senate is working on HB 278, Name Change Process for Dixie State University. The University is prepared to work with senators to support our students and prepare our alumni for rewarding careers all while honoring the Southern Utah heritage; however, we are concerned that we have not heard specific proposals to strengthen the bill and the end of the session is rapidly approaching.

Discussions regarding the Dixie State name have been ongoing for decades, and it is now clear that the name is creating measurable and widespread negative impacts on our students, alumni, and institution. Out of respect for our students and the hard work they put into earning their degrees, the University feels it is paramount that the bill is heard on the senate floor this year.

This recommendation has been unanimously supported by the DSU Student Association Executive Council, University Council, President’s Cabinet, Board of Trustees, the Utah Board of Higher Education, each college and university president from the Utah System of Higher Education System, and a veto-proof majority of the Utah House of Representatives. Additionally, Governor Cox publicly shared his support for this bill.

As an institution of higher education, we have a deep responsibility to look out for our students’ continued success and appreciate the Senate’s dedication to Utah’s future workforce. We look forward to working with our senators as they work to bring this bill to the Senate floor.