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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

Northern Utah Legislator Introduces Bill To Change Name Of Dixie State University

A photo of a sign which reads 'Dixie State University.'
Lexi Peery
Dixie State University could be getting a new name. The university’s board of trustees and the state board of higher education have recommended dropping Dixie.

A bill to change the name of Dixie State University has been introduced in the Utah legislature, and it is being sponsored by a representative from the northern part of the state.

Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane, represents part of southwest Utah and he works for Dixie State University. Advocates for a name change thought he was a likely candidate to sponsor the bill to drop “Dixie.”

But Last said in figuring out who would run the bill, it made sense for the chair of the legislative committee that oversees higher education to do it. That’s why Rep. Miles Kelly, R-Ogden, is sponsoring it.

“This is not a local issue,” Last said. “Dixie State University is a state university and 30% of the students come from Washington County, and 70% come from somewhere else. So it really is a state asset.”

At least two southern Utah legislators have publicly come out against the name change. Tim Anderson is an attorney in St. George and part of the local pro-Dixie group. He said they’re relying on other local lawmakers to defend the name.

“I can see where a legislator up north may want to sponsor the bill,” Anderson said. “But I think a lot of how the bill goes will depend upon how strong the local legislators stand against it.”

Anderson said he and others in the area are fighting against a name change because of the historical significance the nickname has in the region. He said local opinion shouldn’t be cut out of the conversation around the university’s name.

“Just because the university wants to do it doesn't mean it's going to happen and we expect the members of the legislature to listen carefully to what we have to say,” he said.

Last said this is an emotional issue for leaders and the community, and he hopes to come to an agreement. He said the bill may include ways to incorporate the name and its history on campus. The bill also won’t decide the new name, and Last said he hopes replacing it will be a collaborative effort in the community.

“But I think you have to get past the ‘Dixie’ name and the ‘Dixie’ term in the name of the university before you can start having those conversations,” Last said. “That's why we need the support of the legislature to help do that.”

Last said the bill will be heard in committee this week. There’s been no confirmation on who will sponsor it in the Senate.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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