Students rallied Wednesday at Utah’s state capitol in Salt Lake City in support of changing their southern Utah university’s name: Dixie State.
The students support bill HB 278, which would remove “Dixie” from the institute’s name, St. George News reported. The bill has been stuck in the GOP-dominated state Senate, where lawmakers have not yet given the proposal a hearing. Republican Senate President Stuart Adams said Wednesday the bill is expected to be heard in committee soon and the community will have input, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
HB 278 would require the Dixie State University Board of Trustees, in consultation with the Utah Board of Higher Education, to choose and recommend to Utah’s state legislature a new name for the university that does not include the term “Dixie.”
On the steps to the Utah Capitol, students held signs reading, “Please change the name” and “Let the bill be heard” while chanting, “Take it to the floor,” the AP reported. Counter-protestors reportedly held signs reading, “Honor the name Dixie” and “Respect the name Dixie.”
Prior to the protests, unconfirmed rumors of the proposed legislation being effectively halted in a closed-door meeting of Utah Republican senators had emerged, reported St. George News.
The university’s board of trustees has voted to remove “Dixie” from the university’s name, according to the AP, but since Dixie State University is a public institution, a name change requires the state legislature’s approval. (RELATED: Washington And Lee Professors Reportedly Hold Meeting To Discuss Removal Of ‘Lee’ From School Name)
Many residents of the university’s home, St. George, have expressed support for the Dixie State name and have been exerting pressure on lawmakers to reject the name change, according to the AP.
The conflict over the name centers on local and Confederate history. “Dixie” was a nickname early settlers with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had for the region, the AP reported. The region comprising the southern states that had formed the Confederate States of America, however, also shares the name “Dixie.”
Dixie State graduates say their alma mater’s name can look bad on their resume, Dixie State University Student Body President Penny Mills told the AP.
GOP House Speaker Brad Wilson, who supports the proposal, wrote several tweets Tuesday providing economic reasons for the name change.
These companies shared first-hand experiences from their businesses and described the negative effects the term ‘Dixie’ has had on their employees, recruitment, and the growth potential of Southern Utah’s economy. (2/3)
— Speaker Brad Wilson (@BradWilsonGOP) February 23, 2021
The term’s links to the antebellum South and slavery have hurt companies’ employees and recruitment, Wilson argued, referring to reports from major local companies.
Those who oppose the name change argue that Dixie State’s name should considered distinct from the Confederacy’s history.
“We’re not in that bunch,” Tim Anderson, a St. George attorney who opposes the proposal, told the AP in reference to supporters of the name change. “If this was Alabama or Georgia or somewhere else, it would be a different story but we’re not.”