Protest draws large crowd in response to Dixie State’s name change

(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) Students study in the Holland Building on the campus of Dixie State University.

St. George • A crowd gathered to protest the proposed name change of a Utah university that has a moniker that draws unwelcome reminders of racist elements in the nation’s past.

About 100 people rallied Monday to march to the campus of Dixie State University in St. George, The St. George Spectrum reports.

Many of the protesters wore t-shirts, waved flags or carried posters supporting the name while shouting, “Stand for Dixie.”

University officials have tried to separate the school from its ties to the Confederacy, eliminating the Confederate flag and the Rodney Rebel mascot and removing a statue of Confederate soldiers from campus.

The school’s board of trustees voted in December to recommend changing the name, citing concerns raised in a study done in September to “examine the regional, state and national impacts of continuing to include ‘Dixie’ in the name of a four-year public university.”

The study showed some out-of-state employers expressed concern about the Dixie name on graduates’ resumes. It also said nearly two-thirds of people in the college’s recruiting region associate the name Dixie with the Confederacy.

University President Richard Williams said he endorsed the change, which also received the support of his cabinet and the student association, university council, faculty senate and staff association.

New names have not been discussed, but when university officials are ready to rebrand they will have conversations with staff, faculty, alumni and community members, Williams said.

Past proposals to change the name have buckled under opposition from alumni and residents who consider the title a point of pride. “Dixie” is plastered on hills, shops, businesses, signs, logos and billboards across the St. George area.

Student Kanton Vause, who organized the protest, said the name derives from the area’s pioneer settlers who came to St. George for agriculture purposes.

The area was nicknamed Dixie, a reference to Southern states, when settlers with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many of them from the South, tried to make it into a cotton-growing mecca in the 1800s.

The study commissioned by the university found some considered the name offensive, but also indicated a majority of students support the name, Vause said.

“Dixie is a big part of the heritage of the community,” Vause said.

Dixie business school Dean Kyle Wells said history is against the university. The school needs to look to the future and changing the name is the best thing to do for students, he said.

“(The ‘Dixie’ name) is our front door. It’s our brand,” Wells said. “We can’t serve, on a national stage, the student body that we want to attract.”

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