ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) — Dixie State University could be changing its name in the near future after the board of trustees voted to recommend an institutional name change to the Utah Board of Higher Education Monday afternoon.
After reviewing findings of a recent comprehensive impact study pertaining to the positive and negative impacts of including ‘Dixie’ in the school’s name, university officials announced that the word is increasingly problematic not only for students and faculty but recent graduates and prospective employees.
The report from the firm Cicero Group, drawing more than 3,000 stakeholders from St. George, the entire state of Utah, and DSU’s recruiting areas in focus groups, in-depth interviews and surveys, showed that:
- 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.”
Dixie State University officials acknowledged the regional meaning as a word that represents perseverance, service, and love of its first settlers, derived from the cotton mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Ultimately, the board of trustees stated that the word does not encompass diversity and inclusion to all its former, current, and prospective students and faculty due to its association with the Confederacy.
“We are not trying to discredit anything that the university has done. We still love the name Dixie,” student body president Penny Mills said. “That’s why students came here — because we knew or we felt the impact of the Dixie spirit.”
“Preparing students for the careers of their dreams is at the very core of the university’s mission, so it’s crucial that a DSU education gives graduates a competitive advantage rather than present an obstacle they must overcome,” University President Richard B. Williams said.
With this recommendation of a name change by the DSU Board of Trustees, the Utah Board of Higher Education will now decide if it will propose the suggested change to the Utah State Legislature, who will have the final say in changing the name of the school.