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‘Dixie’ may remain on campus, despite potential name change

The Dixie State University bus that brought students to protest at the Utah State Capitol. (PHOTO: KSL Newsradio's Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A senator from St. George is predicting the term ‘Dixie’ will remain on the Dixie State University campus going forward. 

A potential name change, while keeping Dixie on campus

It comes as a bill concerning the potential name change of the university has undergone some alterations. 

The revised HB278, which passed the House Wednesday, requires no particular name for the university and it also does not prevent the term Dixie. Rather, it simply opens the door to a potential name change.

With that in mind, Senator Don Ipson, R-St. George, predicts the name Dixie will remain on campus in some capacity.

“I think it probably will in some fashion,” he explained. “That’s what the heritage part of the bill is for, so the community doesn’t lost the heritage and the namesake.”

Heritage committee and appropriations

He’s referencing new language that comes into play if university trustees and the state higher education board forward a name to lawmakers that does not include the term Dixie. 

In that specific scenario, the university trustees “shall all establish a heritage committee to identify and implement strategies to preserve the heritage, culture and history of the region on the campus of the institution, including the regional significance of the term ‘Dixie.'”

The revised bill also features a one-time $500,000 appropriations request to assist the preservation efforts of the heritage committee. 

Supporters of the bill have claimed the term Dixie is harming students once they graduate and seek employment, while opponents have claimed disrespect towards early settlers of the area.

The original bill, passed by the Utah House of Representatives on a 51-20 vote, decreed that the new name could not include Dixie.

The Senate Education Committee has already voted 6-1 in support of the revised bill and has sent it to the Utah Senate for consideration. The Senate is scheduled to debate the measure on Wednesday.

Opponents and several supporters decry “cancel culture”

The bill passed the Senate by a 26-3 vote, however several supporters said they don’t like why they believe the bill is necessary.  Senator Jacob Anderegg says students are already facing problems from employers and graduate schools because the word “Dixie” implies support for the southern states during the Civil War.

“Some of these students are struggling getting into post-graduate positions and jobs after the fact simply because of this connotation,” he said.

Anderegg believes the substitute bill is a good compromise that ensures public participation.

Senator Todd Weiler voted in favor of HB 278, adding that he understands the implications that come with the word “Dixie.”  However, he asks why other universities, like Yale, aren’t facing similar pressure to change their name.  Weiler says that school is named after Elihu Yale, who traded slaves.

Weiler said, “It bears the last name of a slave trader.  Why do we have to change the name of Dixie State and Yale, named after a slave trader, gets a pass?”

Senator John D. Johnson, one of the three “no votes,” says cancel culture is behind the move to change he school’s name, and he believes cancel culture should be fought.

“I think we need to think about… where does it stop?  Does it stop when we change the name of the state?  Or, does it stop when we tear down Brigham Young’s statue?” Johnson asked.