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Lawmakers likely to vote on Dixie State name change next week

Posted at 3:47 PM, Nov 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-04 18:14:45-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill to formally change the name of Dixie State University to Utah Technical University could be voted on in next week's special session of the state legislature.

Rep. Kelly Miles, R-South Ogden, who sponsored the original bill to start the process to change the St. George-based university's name, told FOX 13 the bill was expected to be considered in the special session where lawmakers will also vote on redistricting. A hearing on the bill would be before the Education Interim Committee on Tuesday.

After numerous public hearings and focus groups, Dixie State University's Board of Trustees and the Utah System of Higher Education both voted to support a name change. "Utah Tech" was advanced as a new name for the university.

Supporters of dumping "Dixie" have pointed to difficulties in recruiting and retaining students, who link the name to the South, the Civil War and the Confederacy as a reason to change the name. Dixie State's own yearbooks show students in blackface, Confederate flags and their former mascot was "The Rebel."

Opponents of the name change insist the name comes from Mormon pioneers who settled in the St. George area to grow cotton. They have recently begun launching campaigns to pressure lawmakers to resist a name change, accusing the state of giving in to "cancel culture." The Washington County Commission recently passed a resolution supporting keeping the "Dixie" name for the school.

But Rep. Miles, who chairs the Higher Education Appropriations Committee, told FOX 13 that it's time to vote on the issue.

"There’s nothing else that can come out that hasn’t already been debated and the input," he said. "We’ve got the time to do it so we’re going to do it at the special session."

Asked if he had the votes to pass it through the legislature, Rep. Miles said he did.

"We’ve been talking to a lot of our colleagues and this is an important issue, but as we put the counts together I think we’ll get it passed in the House. I think we feel a little stronger about the House, but I think the Senate, ultimately, will pass it also."

Governor Spencer Cox is expected to sign the bill, if the legislature passes it.