​Utah college ‘monitoring’ calls to drop ‘Dixie’ from its name

Dixie State University in Utah announced that it is beginning conversations of a name change.

The university is simply “monitoring” the situation as the state legislature considers a name change, a spokesperson said.

Dixie State University is being called upon once again to change its name after local leaders say the word “Dixie” has ties to the southern states in the Confederacy. The university has now announced that it has begun conversations about changing its name. 

Despite the university’s dismissal of name change outcries in the past eight years, it has decided to revisit the topic in light of recent events. The move also comes after a famous country singing trio, now named “The Chicks,” changed its name, dropping “Dixie.” Dixie Brewing in New Orleans also plans to rebrand amid controversy over the term. In 2018, legendary country music singer Dolly Parton changed the name of her Branson, Missouri and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee dinner show attractions from Dixie Stampede to Dolly Parton's Stampede. 

Dixie State University published a statement on the matter addressing the “negative connotations” of the term while showing respect for the term's regional meaning: "We are cognizant of and sensitive to the multiple meanings associated with the name ‘Dixie. We respect the regional meaning of Dixie adopted by many, describing the local heritage and honoring the men and women who settled the beautiful St. George area.”

But university spokesperson Jordan Sharp told Campus Reform that the decision will be left up to state legislators.

“Please know, no formal process is currently in place to change the name. At this time, we are simply monitoring the situation,” Sharp said.

[RELATED: U of Arkansas petition aims to bring down Fulbright statue]

Supporters of keeping the name say that the name resembles the heritage of the region. When Latter-day Saints settled in the area, they wanted to make the area a center of cotton farming. They later nicknamed the region “Dixie.” 

The university previously faced similar calls to change its name. A petition started on Change.org called upon the governor and state legislature to officially change the name. The petition points out that the term was meant to serve as a nickname for the region, separate from the word’s ties to slavery; however, the “sum total” effect of the word is cause for changing it. 

“It is true, in our community, the word ‘Dixie’ was first used, primarily, to establish St. George as a warm southern alternative to the colder regions of northern Utah,” the petition states, “However, this is not the sum total of what the word Dixie means today (both inside and outside of Utah). Over the course of the school's history, Dixie borrowed more than just the geographical nature of the name, it also embraced the Confederate identity of the south.”

[RELATED: BU considers renaming mascot over ‘Gone With the Wind’ connection]

Despite this petition amassing nearly 300 signatures, the university decided to forego a name change after a marketing firm determined there was local support for keeping the term “Dixie.” 

But today, more people are speaking out against it. 

Jeanetta Williams, a vocal critic of the university’s 2013 decision and president of NAACP’s tri-state conference area of Idaho-Utah-Nevada said that the university should finally cut its ties to racism and the confederacy. 

“It would send a clear message that they are listening to the people, not only here in Utah, but across the country when people are saying that names do matter; flags do matter; the Confederate symbols and the Southern stances after the Civil War — they do matter,” Williams told KIDK-TV.

[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Dean fired after saying 'EVERYONE'S LIFE MATTERS' in email]

Current petitions are circulating in the area. One petition calling on Gov. Gary Herbert to rid the word “Dixie” from the region completely has amassed more than 1,900 signatures, far more than the nearly 300 signatures a similar petition garnered seven years ago. 

On the contrary, an online petition showing support for the word “Dixie” has been signed by more than 21,000 individuals in the area who support the reflection of the term as the region’s heritage.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @cam_deckr