Committee votes to rename Dixie State as Utah Polytechnic State University

Or, informally, Utah Tech. Change still needs to be approved by trustees and legislature.

File - Greater Zion Stadium at Dixie State University is shown on June 30, 2020, in St. George, Utah. A push to change Dixie State University's name is stalling in the GOP-dominated Utah Senate, after a new push to drop the term many find offensive sparked a backlash. (Chris Caldwell/The Spectrum via AP, File)

The committee charged with coming up with a new name for Dixie State University voted 11-3 (with two abstentions) in favor of Utah Polytechnic State University on Monday morning. And, most likely, Utah Tech, for short — if the school’s board of directors and the state legislature approve the change.

“The name will establish the university as an institution that serves to benefit students from the entire state while providing a broad identifier to those outside of Utah,” according to the committee’s official statement.

It will also remove what has been a divisive issue in the St. George area, with opponents pointing to the name Dixie’s link with the Confederacy and slavery, and proponents dismissing that point of view, claiming it’s part of the region’s heritage dating back to mid-19th century pioneers.

“I think that this name recommendation will alleviate a lot of the pressure that’s been on the community,” said Julie Beck, a member of the Dixie State board of trustees and chairman of the renaming committee. “People will now be free to get behind and support something that is unified, inclusive and freeing” while “building upon the heritage of the past.”

Beck said she herself has ancestors who settled in the St. George area in the 1850s, adding, “I tend to believe they would be really proud of this step.”

In its formal statement, the committee said “the inclusion of Polytechnic highlights the university’s academic mission to be the nation’s first open, inclusive, comprehensive polytechnic university” that “combines active and applied learning with a strong foundation in liberal arts and sciences.”

And the committee pointed to schools like Cal Poly, Texas Tech and Virginia Tech (full name: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) as models for how the renamed Dixie State will come to be known — if not Utah Tech, than perhaps Utah Polytech or U. Tech.

The committee had previously rejected a proposal to name the St. George campus the “Dixie Campus.”

Deven Osborne, a wide receiver on the football team and a member of the renaming committee, said retaining the Dixie name “might cause a negative effect toward us. So I kind of wanted to stay far away from that.”

Beck said she has listened to “hundreds and hundreds of voices” during the renaming process, which she described as “meticulous” and “professional.” She also said that in discussion with students — “particularly student athletes and minority students” — as well as faculty and others. “We saw how limiting our name has been to them,” Beck said.

While saying it’s the “right time” to make the change, Beck acknowledged that dropping the Dixie name has been an “emotional issue for many people. … There’s been a lot of discussion around that — passion on both sides of this.”

But the decision to move away from Dixie “is not an indictment on any one group,” said Patricia Jones, a member of the Utah Board of Higher Education and of the renaming committee. “This is a decision that looks forward to the future, assuming the natural growth in metamorphosis of this region.”

Beck said she’s “quite confident” the board of trustees will approve the new name because it “fulfills all the requirements for the legislation” by adding a “location identifier” and “speak to our academic mission.”

“It’s the right time for this university to advance in this way and be named what it really is and give it its true potential through this,” Beck said. “It’s going to bring greater honor to this region than we’ve ever seen, building upon the good things of the past.”

Osborne said he’s “proud” of the new name. “Hopefully, I get to wear it on my jersey next season,” he added.