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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.

Dixie State University Name Change Bill Moves To Full Senate, Doesn’t Require ‘Dixie’ To Be Dropped

People in favor of keeping the name Dixie State University gathered on campus Monday morning.
Courtesy of Ilene Hacker
People in favor of keeping the name Dixie State University gathered on campus Monday morning.

The bill to rename Dixie State University is moving forward, but doesn’t require “Dixie” to be dropped. A substitute bill also lays out the renaming process in an effort to involve more community input.

It was approved Monday by the Senate Education Committee, 6-1. This is after it seemed to have stalled in the Senate in recent weeks.

Rep. Kelly Miles, R-Ogden, is the House sponsor of the bill. He said the substitute was about striking a balance between supporters and opponents of the name change, and allows for more public input.

“It's my intention that with this additional public input that ultimately the Dixie State University Board of Trustees and eventually the Utah Board of Higher Education will return to the Legislature later this year with the name recommendation that enables Dixie State University to thrive,” Miles said.

The name change was spurred because of the term Dixie’s ties to the Confederacy.

The substitute was sponsored by Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, who’s been involved with negotiations around the name change. Last week, he said his contention with the original bill was it didn’t involve local residents.

“The community hasn't had enough input to have a reasonable say and buy in on it,” Ipson said in late February. “So we're going to try to do everything we can to involve the community.”

Southern Utah residents that are supportive of the name Dixie have said it’s because of the history the name has for pioneers who settled the area. Tim Anderson, a member of Defending Southwestern Utah Heritage Coalition, said he hopes the process moving forward is open and public.

“The substitute at least preserves the opportunity to retain the name Dixie at the university,” Anderson said Monday night after the Senate committee meeting. “The proof is in the process, but [renaming the school] is obviously not our preferred direction to go. Well, again, we'll see.”

University President Richard Williams testified to the Senate committee and said it was a difficult decision to move forward with renaming the school, but he said it’s important for current and future students to have a new name.

“We need a name that reflects the future of our university,” Williams said. “This is not about canceling our heritage. We will continue celebrating the regional definition of Dixie. This is about saving the future of our graduates by celebrating our past and how it has created a foundation for this future.”

The bill sets aside $500,000 to set up a heritage committee if Dixie is ultimately dropped.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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