ST. GEORGE, Utah — The administration at Dixie State University is considering removing “Dixie” from the school’s name.
The school, founded in 1911 as St. George Stake Academy, became Dixie Academy two years later.
While the institution has evolved from an academy, to a college and eventually, a university, the term “Dixie” has remained for more than a century.
Now, with a heightened awareness of racism around the country, DSU’s leaders are contemplating a re-branding.
“We are mindful of the current discussion regarding racial symbols, monuments, names,” said Jordan Sharp, a spokesperson for Dixie State University. “There is a national connotation to ‘Dixie’ which ties to the Civil War.”
While the discussion is still in its early stages, it isn’t new.
The debate picked up steam in 2013 when the school achieved status as a university. The issue has never been easy for administrators, students and those who call southern Utah home.
“This is a complex issue because those who live here understand the regional meaning behind the word ‘Dixie’ which goes back to the early settlers,” Sharp said.
On campus, one student said she is troubled by the potential change because of the history of the region. Many of the early settlers to southern Utah owned cotton farms. She believes the term ‘Dixie,’ when used in Utah, does not have a racist meaning.
“It’s a term that got turned somewhere else that we don’t associate with,” said Cami Christensen. “It doesn’t fit to remove it because as a whole, we don’t feel that we are calling it ‘Dixie’ to be rude or bring up bad history. That’s not what the tone of the word is here.”
But others argue a new name would be a symbolic gesture to encourage inclusivity and diversity on campus.
“I feel like the change will help with more black students coming here,” said Frederick Abraham. “Just seeing that change, Dixie State has changed, we’ll have more black students and more diversity.”
A faculty member described the issue as one that isn’t as simple as a name. He brought up several examples of racism on campus that have occurred through the years. Those speak to a much broader issue.
“Whether or not they get rid of the name is one thing,” said Geoff Smith. “I just walked by a pavilion that says ‘Rebels Forever.’ The Confederate iconography, the fact that there used to be mock slave auctions on campus, all of that stuff has to be addressed regardless of the name change.”
Changing the university’s name would ultimately be voted on and approved by the Utah legislature.