‘Divisive and controversial’: Dixie State name change bill moving forward on Utah’s Capitol Hill

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ST. GEORGE, Utah. (ABC4) — A possible Dixie State University name change is going to have to wait until next year.

On Monday State Senator Don Ipson, R-St. George, introduced a substitution bill of HB278 that made some changes.

“This has been controversial,” said Sen. Ipson. “This has been divisive.”

The new changes say that $500,000 will be appropriated to the Heritage Committee if the name passes next year. This is to preserve the regional heritage, culture, and history on DSU’s campus, should the trustees opt to change the name. 

As ABC4 has previously reported some are for it and some are against it. Lawmakers want more time.

“It is really a difficult thing when you see a community kind of get broken a part,” said State Senator Evan Vickers.

“The mission of the university is what it is and we will see what the community comes up with,” said Ipson.

Sen. Ipson said the new legislation includes a new name change process which needs to allow the community more time to speak up.

“So this will be back in front of us in a year, so we will be making those determinations at the legislature so this gives the community time to answer some of those questions asked,” said Utah Senate President Stuart Adams.

The proposed name changes must be submitted to the legislature by Nov. 1st.

“My goal is to try to bring the community together and I hope the bill, compromise is step one to doing that,” said Ipson.

On Monday, a rally of students, alumni and community members took place in St. George to keep the name Dixie in Dixie State University.

According to a study commissioned by Dixie State University, performed by the Cicero Group, “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

The next step for this bill is for the Dixie State University Board of Trustees to meet with some legislators and form a committee. This bill, HB278 will be back in session next year.

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