Dixie State community members protest name change, citing regional Utah heritage

Community members in Utah protested after Dixie State University voted to change its name.

Though the Dixie region of Utah has no associations with slavery, the university worries that the name will worsen job prospects for students who move outside of Utah.

Community members in St. George, Utah protested after Dixie State University voted to change its name.

A Facebook group, titled “Defending Southwestern Utah Heritage Coalition” — which is comprised of more than 3,200 members — announced that students invited them to help protest the name change.

“The students do not want to see the school’s name changed and they are very upset about this,” wrote the group’s moderators. “We have explained to the students organizing this rally that the name still has to be voted on by the legislature and that our group and the entire community and Dixie alumni are trying our best to stop this. We are asking them to write to the legislators too.”

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A Jan. 11 live stream shows roughly 100 individuals wearing red t-shirts and flying flags emblazoned with the phrase “Keep Dixie.”
The group walked through campus chanting “stand for Dixie.”

Other members of the community appeared on campus to counter-protest. 

One held a sign that stated, “choosing a name with a racist background was a hurtful mistake that needs to be changed.”

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Dixie State University’s official news service explained that St. George, Utah has been known by the nickname of “Utah’s Dixie” since 1857 when a handful of families “moved to the southwest corner of the state to establish a town and grow cotton.” 

The statement acknowledges that “the regional name is used to honor the area’s pioneering heritage of grit, service, and sacrifice.”

Though the name does not have associations with slavery in Utah, the university indicated that 33 percent of Southern Utah residents and 41 percent of Utahns still associate the name with the South or the Confederacy.

Through a study carried out by an outside firm, Dixie State University found that 22 percent of recent graduates looking for jobs outside of Utah “have had an employer express concern that Dixie is on their resume.”

Dixie State spokeswoman Jyl Hall told Campus Reform that 52 percent of recent alumni who live outside of the state feel the name has a negative impact on the brand.

Hall added that before the institution can proceed with a name selection process, the Utah State Legislature “first needs to vote on whether or not the name should change because our name is in state statute.”

If legislators vote to change the institution’s name, then the university “would include the community in the decision-making process to help us identify a name that best represents our focus, mission, and future direction.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft