On Wednesday, the Utah House of Representatives passed a bill that would begin the process to change the name of Dixie State University.
House Bill 278, which is sponsored by Rep Kelly Miles, R-Ogden, would require the Dixie State University Board of Trustees to collect public input on a new name for the school, so long as that name does not have ‘dixie’ in it. However, an amendment was passed while the bill was in committee to give the Board of Trustees the option to name the main campus “Dixie Campus.” The new name would then need to be confirmed by the Utah Board of Higher Education and, after that, the legislature. Miles said the national connotation of ‘dixie’ has hindered both recruitment efforts of the university and student job placement after graduation.
“Now we all appreciate the local meaning of Utah’s ‘dixie.’ It reflects our pioneering heritage. Unfortunately, however due to the national definition of ‘dixie’ that is synonymous with the Civil War, it is having a measurable impact on our students, alumni, employees and the institution’s ability to recruit and build meaningful relationships,” he said.
Several members of the House spoke in opposition to the bill, with arguments centering around pride many southern Utahns hold for the term and the wide variance in connotation. However, Rep. Timothy Hawkes, R-Centerville, said during floor debate that even if the term has wide interpretation, it’s different for Dixie State University who for several decades beginning in 1952 had the “Rebel” as their mascot and flew the confederate flag.
“It’s unfortunate that in the 50s and 60s and 70s that the University embraced the iconography of the south, but they did. And that means the term is loaded in a way that it isn’t when used in other contexts,” he said.
The bill passed out of the House with a vote of 50-to-20 and is now heading to the Senate.
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