Higher education board supports Dixie State University name change

Education

ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) — The Utah Board of Higher Education voted unanimously Friday to support changing the name of Dixie State University.

The university’s board of trustees voted to recommend an institutional name change to the State Board of Higher Education earlier this week, based on the results of an impact study that addressed the positives and negatives of keeping “Dixie” in the school name.

More than 3,000 stakeholders from St. George, the entire state of Utah, and DSU’s recruiting areas participated in focus groups, in-depth interviews, and surveys, the university said. According to the firm Cicero Group, the ‘Dixie’ brand is strong in southwestern Utah, and somewhat strong throughout the rest of the state, but is largely problematic outside of Utah.

“A name change would likely result in decreased alumni donations,” according to Cicero, “whereas keeping the ‘Dixie’ name could mean trouble for grant seeking, corporate donations, and partnerships.” Some key findings include:

  • 22% of recent DSU graduates have had a potential employer express concern about seeing the word “Dixie” on their resume.
  • 54% of faculty and staff and 36% of current students believe the name will have a negative impact on the institution’s general brand.
  • 33% of Southern Utah residents, 41% of Utahns, and 64% of survey participants from DSU recruiting areas associated the term “Dixie” with the South or the Confederacy.
  • 45% of current DSU staff said that when they meet other academic professionals, they assume DSU is located in the southern United States.

“Although we deeply believe moving toward an institutional name change is in the best interest of our campus community, we understand this change will be difficult for many since the name has been cherished in our region since 1857 when 38 families settled Southwest Utah to grow cotton,” the trustees said in a statement. “However, the word Dixie has a national meaning that is vastly different from the local understanding of the term.”

Since the announcement, a GoFundMe account is seeking to raise $50,000 to fight the decision to drop “Dixie” from the name, raising more than $3,000 as of Friday afternoon.

“Erasing history and tearing down statues will not be tolerated in Utah’s Dixie,” The GoFundMe page states. “We have watched other communities throughout our nation work together to save their history and heritage, we can do this too.”

University officials have stated the decision is “not about erasing history” but stems from ensuring the future success of their students, emphasizing that those outside of the southern Utah community “do not understand or respect the name.”

“We are not trying to discredit anything that the university has done. We still love the name Dixie,” DSU student body president Penny Mills said. “That’s why students came here — we knew or we felt the impact of the ‘Dixie Spirit.’”

The decision is now up to the Utah Legislature as a bill that must pass the House of Representatives and the Senate. The university has stated that only then will they begin discussing options for a new school name.

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