ST. GEORGE, Utah — The city council has passed a resolution that supports the use of the term "Utah's Dixie."
The resolution, passed unanimously on Thursday night, does not explicitly state that St. George's elected leaders support or oppose changing the name of Dixie State University. However, they reiterated their support for a "regional definition" of the word.
The university is moving forward with efforts to change its name, arguing the name "Dixie" with connotations of the Civil War Confederacy and slavery are hurting its efforts to recruit and retain students and faculty. Supporters of a name change have pointed to the university's own history with a Confederate soldier statue on campus, a yearbook called "The Confederate" that showed students in blackface, and a mascot named "Rodney Rebel" in its past.
But opponents of the name change have argued the term "Dixie" has a different meaning than outside Utah, with its ties to Latter-day Saint pioneers who settled in the area back in 1861. They have argued that state leaders are giving in to "cancel culture" and political correctness. Some have also complained they have been left out of the name change process.
Earlier this year, the Utah State Legislature passed a bill that began a process to change the university's name. Governor Spencer Cox has told FOX 13 that he supports dropping "Dixie" from the university. The university recently began a public process to take input for a new name.
The resolution declares that Latter-day Saint pioneers settled in the area for the purpose of growing cotton. Many of them, originally from the South, started calling the St. George region "Utah's Dixie." It passed down from generation to generation.
The resolution declares "the pioneers established the Dixie Spirit which can be defined as industrious, dedication, perseverance, working together for the common good, kindness, charity, compassion, respect for all." It urges the community to "respect our heritage and continue to show the Dixie Spirit to family, friends, neighbors, newcomers and visitors."
From a policy standpoint, the resolution declares the name "Dixie" will stay on the hillside overlooking the city, on street signs and some buildings "and we will continue to support all businesses, all schools, sports, and institutions with Dixie in their name."
Acknowledging the community divide, the mayor and one member of the council explained their votes.
"I am very supportive of and reverence the regional meaning of this word," said Council member Dannielle Larkin. "I have pioneer heritage and I honor the regional word. I think part of our pioneering spirit is the ability to engage in ongoing self-awareness. I think it's a mistake for us in our community to vilify anyone who stands on either side of some of the debates that are going on right now."
Council member Larkin said it is possible for the term to have two different definitions, both inside and outside of Utah.
"I think it's possible to see this issue from dual perspectives and to honor both," she added. "I want to state from my heart that I honor both."
Mayor Michelle Randall said she is saddened by the fracture that the name change issue is creating within the community.
"I hope when all is said and done we will be able to come together and truly show the 'Dixie' spirit and be one community again," she said. "And the division goes to the wayside."
Read the resolution here: