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‘We need understanding’: lawmakers pushing for community input on Dixie State University name change legislation

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Photo: Dixie State University

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Time is running out in the 2021 legislative session and some bills have yet to be heard in both the house and the senate; maybe none more controversial than HB278 issuing a name change to Dixie State University.

ABC4 learned Tuesday state senators are not sure they’ll get around to it and this has some lawmakers and community members upset.

After asking Senate President Stuart Adams multiple times if this bill will be heard he did not give a definite yes or no.

He told ABC4 he would like this bill to be heard but wants more community input.

Meanwhile, the president of the Salt Lake NAACP chapters said she and the community have been working on this for more than 15 years.

“Those lawmakers need a history lesson,” said Jeanetta Williams, the Salt Lake NAACP President. “Who would want to go to a college named Dixie because a lot of people they know what Dixie is?”

Williams is worried Dixie State University is going down the wrong path if the name does not get changed.

Senate President Stuart Adams said he understands the debate, but thinks the university acted too quickly.

“When we hear Dixie I do not think of anything that is connotative to perhaps the Dixie or the deep south,” said Adams. “I think of red rock, but here in Utah, we need to come to the understanding which I think we are. It means something different to the outside.”

Senator Don Ipson who represents St. George agreed with Adams.

“I think they acted too soon and they did not give the community a chance to come along with them,” said Ipson.

Polling data shows a majority of those in southwestern Utah do not support a name change, but those not from Utah do support the name change.

The chief sponsor of the bill Representative Kelly Miles said this isn’t about numbers, it’s about supporting the best interest of the future of Dixie State University. 

Williams said she can’t understand how the university changes its mascot and moves a confederate statue out of the public’s view, but can’t get the legislature on board for a name change.

“They want to say it has nothing to do with race, it has nothing to do with the south, and it has nothing to do with slavery but in history’s past it has everything to do with that,” said Williams.

There are eight days left in the session and there is still not a guarantee this hotly contested bill gets heard by the senate.

On Wednesday Dixie State University students will be at the Utah Capitol urging state senators to hear the bill and hopefully vote on it.

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