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The NAACP and Higher Ed in Utah weigh in on possible name change of Dixie State University

Posted at 11:05 PM, Jul 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-02 13:57:08-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The discussion surrounding a possible name change for Dixie State University isn't just happening in southern Utah, it's also getting the attention of the NAACP and the Utah System of Higher Education in Salt Lake City.

The word "Dixie" has been a part of the school's identity for over 100 years. In years past, there have been protests and discussions to consider changing the name, and now those conversations are happening again.

"You just cannot give up," said Jeanetta Williams, President of the NAACP tri-state Conference of Idaho, Nevada and Utah. "We have been fighting these different fights for years and years and years."

Dixie State University has changed names seven times since the school first opened in 1911.

To Williams, the word Dixie is offensive.

"It reminds me of the confederacy, it reminds me of all the different negative names to go with the Civil War and it reminds me of the old song, 'Dixie' as well," she said.

It's been a part of the school’s name since 1913.

"This is a time that we need to look at changing the different names because names do matter and people need to stop and realize that yes it may have meant something to folks years and years ago but it also means something different to other people as myself," Williams added.

According to the school's website, the name Dixie was already used to identify the St. George area and those who settled there. Others say the word is rooted in racism and Civil War confederacy.

Dixie State has had plenty of confederate and racist uncoverings, most coming nearly 50 years ago. However, it wasn't until 2012 where a statue of Confederate soldiers on campus was removed.

The Utah System of Higher Education is aware conversations regarding the name are starting back up at the university level.

"It's something that needs to be considered, it's something we need to be looking at also something that there has been zero decision in fact at the state board level there has been no conversation whatsoever," said Commissioner Dave Woolstenhulme.

"I don't think there's anybody that's saying that they're not 100-percent concerned about the racial context of it or anything else. Nobody is saying that."

In light of 2020's historic events spotlighting racism, the word "Dixie" has already been removed from titles across America.

"This doesn't just matter for the state of Utah," Williams said. "But it matters for the world."

The process of changing the name is a long one. It starts locally at the university, then goes to the state board of regents, and finally, it would be decided in the state legislature. By the time they meet, it would be January of 2021.