SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A bill to change the name of Dixie State University has passed in the Utah House of Representatives.

House Bill 278, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Miles, (R-Ogden), passed the Utah House Education Committee with a 12-2 vote in early February.

The push for the bill originated from the connotations associated with the word ‘Dixie’, in which the school received many years of controversial comments in regards to endorsing the south and the Confederacy.

“We have a great love for southern Utah and Dixie State University, but we’re looking at it as a whole of what’s in the best interest of the students,” says Rep. Miles. “The primary charge is to help educate and place students into the workforce, and I think all of this distraction with the name is coming between that.”

On Wednesday, the proposed bill passed the House with a 51-20-4 vote.

If passed by the Senate and signed by Governor Spencer Cox, H.B. 278 would require the university’s new name drop the term “Dixie.”

“This has been a polarizing and contentious issue. I hate that it has to be that way,” Miles said. “There’s definitely mixed feelings. By all means, it’s going to be a difficult vote, and you can certainly see both sides of the argument.” 

For decades, Dixie State University was known as the Rebels. The university had the confederate flag on campus, there were slave auctions during homecoming, and their yearbook was titled ‘The Confederate.’

“We did have sayings in those yearbooks like every southerner needs a slave and different things that are pretty hard to swallow in today’s environment,” says DSU President Richard Williams in an exclusive interview with ABC4.

During a January debate, emotions ran high at Dixie State University as a board of panelists debated the proposal to change its name.

In July 2020, Intermountain Healthcare officials announced its southern Utah hospital would no longer be named Dixie Regional Medical Center. Since January 1, 2021, that location has been known as Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital.

H.B. 278 will now head to the Senate.