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Decision over Dixie State University name change moves to state Legislature

Utah Board of Higher Education joins the school’s board of trustees in voting unanimously to drop ‘Dixie’ from the college’s name

(Chris Caldwell/The Spectrum via AP) Greater Zion Stadium at Dixie State University is shown Tuesday, June 30, 2020, in St. George, Utah. The Dixie State University board of trustees and the Utah Board of Higher Education voted in December 2020 to recommend changing the school's name.

After the Utah Board of Higher Education voted unanimously Friday to recommend changing the name of Dixie State University, the decision moves to the state Legislature.

The process of renaming the college began Monday when the school’s board of trustees voted in favor of removing “Dixie” from the college’s name.

It’s the latest discussion over several years about the controversy of whether to retain “Dixie,” due to its connections to the Confederacy and the slave-owning American South. In southwest Utah, 19th century pioneers grew cotton, and some of the area’s early settlers were former slave owners.

The next step would be for a state legislator to propose a bill relating to the name change, said Rep. Lowry Snow, R-St. George, who serves as chairperson of the House Education Committee. No bill had been filed as of Friday afternoon.

“We plan to work with the legislature to draft a bill that authorizes a change and instructs DSU and the Utah System of Higher Education to begin working with community stakeholders to determine a new name,” Stacy Schmidt, university spokesperson, said in an email Friday.

With the unanimous decisions this week, Snow said it’s likely the state Legislature will address this issue during the upcoming session, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 19.

Snow added, “While it it may be ripe for legislation, I would certainly hope that any of my colleagues moving forward would respect the community and the university here and ... take input on what an appropriate name should be.”

Dixie State University’s board of trustees voted to recommend a new name after reviewing a study by the consulting firm Cicero, which evaluated the potential effects of keeping or dropping ‘Dixie.’

Among other findings, researchers determined that 41% of recent alumni who live outside Utah said they felt uncomfortable wearing their alma mater’s apparel with the word “Dixie” on it, and that 22% of recent out-of-state graduates reported that a potential employer had expressed concern about “Dixie” appearing on their resume.

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