SALT LAKE CITY — A protest to urge lawmakers to leave the name of Dixie State University unchanged is scheduled for Monday morning.
The protest will take place at 11:30 at the clock tower on the Dixie State campus in St. George just hours before a key Utah State Senate committee hearing on the issue.
Those who are against changing the name argue it is part of the region’s history and does not carry racist connotations.
“It means pioneers going to the confluence of the Virgin and Santa Clara rivers in the middle of the 19th century,” said Tim Anderson, a member of the Defending Southwestern Utah Heritage Coalition. “The name Dixie has a whole different meaning that may have been attached to it at another place and another time.”
Anderson hopes to open a conversation about the history of the first settlers of the region – farmers and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“It has a different story. This is not a part of the country that had anything to do with the Confederacy,” Anderson said. “This is pioneers in a very inhospitable part of the southwestern United States. Life was short and life was hard.”
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But those on the other side argue the name is harmful to current students who are looking for post-graduation employment outside of Utah. They fear prospective employers will look at their resumes and see a word tied to racism.
“We still want to honor the heritage of southern Utah and Dixie and Utah’s Dixie, but we also understand the name Dixie is hurting students and impacting the students on a national level,” Dixie State student Cory O’Bray said at a recent protest at the Utah State Capitol.
Any name change must be passed by the Utah State Legislature and signed by the governor. Five days remain in the 2021 legislative session.
Anderson worries removing the word Dixie from the name of the university could be the first step in trying to erase the history of southwestern Utah.
“Come hear our story,” he said. “Be here. Learn about the Dixie spirit, what is this community about.”
The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to discuss the name change bill Monday at 4 p.m. It is the 10th item on the committee’s agenda.
Click here to view the agenda.