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Dixie State board of trustees votes to drop ‘Dixie’ from university's name

Posted at 4:03 PM, Dec 14, 2020

ST. GEORGE, Utah — Dixie State University may be changing its name in the near future as the school's board of trustees voted Monday to remove "Dixie" from its name.

The change comes after a consulting firm found that recently-graduated students believed employers were concerned over the name of the school.

“Preparing students for the careers of their dreams is at the very core of the university’s mission, so it’s crucial that a DSU education gives graduates a competitive advantage rather than present an obstacle they must overcome,” University President Richard B. Williams said.

"Dixie" is often connected with the Confederacy and the South during the Civil War. The school's name came from the area being called "Dixie" in the early 1900s.

"Although we deeply believe moving toward an institutional name change is in the best interest of our campus community, we understand this change will be difficult for many since the name has been cherished in our region since 1857, when 38 families settled Southwest Utah to grow cotton," the trustees said in a statement. "However, the word Dixie has a national meaning that is vastly different from the local understanding of the term."

Tiffany Wilson, the vice chair of the board, echoed that sentiment.

“As a girl who grew up in St. George, went to all the Dixie schools, including Dixie High, Dixie College — and I’ll even add, my mother's name is Dixie — I have a strong affinity to the name Dixie ... and what it means for me and my community," she said. "Locally, we understand what the name means, and it's easy to say ‘If we could just explain it to everyone, that’d be great' — we don’t have the opportunity. Our students don’t have that opportunity.”

The report from the Cicero Group showed the following barriers and support to keeping "Dixie" in the school name:

  • 25% of Southwestern Utah, 44% of Greater Utah, and 56% of our out-of-state recruiting areas believe the name will have a negative impact on the institution’s general brand
  • 54% of faculty and staff and 36% of current students believe the name will have a negative impact on the institution’s general brand
  • 62% of Southwestern Utah and 46% of Greater Utah believe there will be greater brand appeal if the name remains
  • 22% of recent graduates looking for jobs outside of Utah have had an employer express concern that Dixie is on their résumé
  • 42% of respondents from our recruiting region and 22% of respondents from Utah say the name makes them less likely to attend DSU
  • 52% of recent alumni who live outside of the state feel the name has a negative impact on the brand
  • 17% of our community members, 38% of Utahns, and 52% of people outside of the state feel uncomfortable wearing our apparel outside of Utah; 47% of recent alumni who live outside of the state feel uncomfortable wearing their alma mater’s brand

“If there are any barriers between students and their future and their careers, we need to be able to overcome those barriers," student body President Penny Mills said. “We are not trying to discredit anything that the university has done... We still love the name Dixie. That’s why students came here — because we knew or we felt the impact of the Dixie spirit that people often talk about.”

The next step: The Utah Board of Higher Education will vote on whether to recommend a name change to the Utah State Legislature. Then, legislation would be drawn up for the legislature’s approval.