Arguments for and against renaming Dixie State University during special session

Nov 9, 2021, 8:50 PM
(The DSU "Road Scholar" bus parked at the Capitol for the special session.  Photo: Paul Nelson, Nov...
(The DSU "Road Scholar" bus parked at the Capitol for the special session. Photo: Paul Nelson, November 9, 2021)
(The DSU "Road Scholar" bus parked at the Capitol for the special session. Photo: Paul Nelson, November 9, 2021)

SALT LAKE CITY – Some intense emotions and heated discussion happened Tuesday on Utah’s Capitol Hill as people on both sides debated renaming Dixie State University.  Supporters of the name change say it will help graduates looking for work, while critics says it’s fixing a problem that doesn’t exist.

Many officials and students with Dixie State University say the name is becoming a problem for them once they graduate.  Some students say they know the term “Dixie” doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as in other states, but the connection the word has with being sympathetic to the southern states during the Civil War is prominent outside of Utah.  One DSU athletics official told the Interim Education Committee that students are declining scholarships because of that word.

“There are student-athletes that have said no to us and don’t want to be recruited and don’t want to come here because of the name,” he said.

Renaming Dixie State University

The bill allowing the school to choose a new name was signed earlier this year, and DSU Name Recommendation Committee Chair Julie Beck says the instructions set out by the legislature were followed to the letter.  She also said the new name, Utah Tech University, got unanimous support from student groups, faculty, the Board of Trustees and the Utah System of Higher Education.

Beck said, “I have overseen many complex and important projects.  However, there is nothing I have participated in during my life that I feel better about than the process that was undertaken to fulfill House Bill 278.”

Danny Ipson, DSU Board of Trustees member, became emotional while speaking about his alma mater.  He said he understood the deep sense of identity that comes with the name “Dixie,” but he also believes changing it will make life easier for graduates.

“By supporting an institutional name change, as mentioned before, it should not, in any way, be perceived as changing history or wiping away the rich heritage that we enjoy in our community,” Ipson said.

Heated words on both sides

During the public comment period, sharp words were traded between both sides.  One supporter of the name Utah Tech University accused people opposing the change of being “selfish” and “conceited.”  Opponents of the change said comments like that were “immature.”

Some St. George residents told the committee they had no business deciding what the school’s name should be.

One woman said, “You people in this room have no skin in the game.”

Others question the claims that employers are refusing to hire DSU graduates because of its name, adding that they’ve been able to get jobs all over the country without anyone raising any concerns.  Some residents say removing the name “Dixie” will cause bad blood between the university and southern Utah residents.

“If you change the name of this school, you are doing damage to the community that can never be resolved,” one woman said.

That sentiment was echoed by Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson.

“It will cause a permanent rift and damage with the relationship between the university and the community that supported it,” according to Iverson.

House Bill 2001 was not brought up on the House floor during the first day of this special session.  Both the House and the Senate are expected to vote on the bill Wednesday.

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Arguments for and against renaming Dixie State University during special session