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Why Dixie State students support a name change

It is time to move into a newer, brighter future and change the Dixie name.

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Dixie State University in St. George is pictured on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. In the background is the Jeffrey R. Holland Centennial Commons. A proposal to change the name of the university is under debate.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

The Dixie name has been questioned for several years, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that the name is affecting students. As the student executive council, we love our university and are extremely proud to be attending this school. In order for students to be successful in their current and future endeavors, the name of our institution needs to change. The passing of the bill during this legislative session will be crucial for Dixie State University and its students.

One example comes from a former Trailblazer: 

“As a 2020 graduate, I have been asked in each of my seven post-grad interviews, ‘Where is Dixie?’ I’ve worked for three companies: SAIC (on an Air Force contract), eBay and most recently Amazon. All are companies with primary hiring managers in Utah, and every single time I interviewed for these positions, the topic as to ‘where Dixie actually was’ came up. While thus far I have not been turned down from any place I’ve interviewed, there is a big question mark over the places that I simply sent a resume into and never heard back from.

“My first day at each of these jobs has been explaining the Dixie name as quickly as possible and only getting neutral or negative responses to the name of the university. A common response I’ve heard about the school’s name is, ‘it’s weird that they would pick a name like that.’ The only time I’ve not had to explain the school name thus far has been during my graduate program at University of Utah, where my adviser wondered out loud on a Zoom call when DSU would change its name.

“In consideration of these experiences, for at least my own sake, I am in favor of the name change as the name at the very best evokes confusion and at the worst, makes me wonder what jobs I’ve been disqualified from by a name with poor connotations.”

Sadly, this is just one of many experiences that demonstrates how the institution’s name has affected our students. This is something that cannot be ignored, and as the university’s student representatives, it is our mission to be inclusive and make sure everyone is welcome. 

After educating ourselves on the impacts of the name and formulating our own opinions on the matter, we each feel that there is no question that this recommendation is in the best interest of the students and university moving forward. We, as an executive council, made a unanimous decision to recommend a change of the Dixie name. Although we accept and respect that people have different attitudes, values and beliefs than ours, we still find it imperative that everyone understand the effects of the name Dixie.

To ensure that our fellow students understand the impacts of the Dixie name, we held a student forum where Cicero Group presented the data it collected through interviews and surveys. DSU’s Institute of Politics also held a community forum with panelists representing students, community members and administration. Both events were held with the goal of bringing everyone together to come to a similar understanding. Unfortunately, this goal was not met at these meetings.

The executive council, along with several other students on campus, met with our local legislators to discuss how important this is, and how the name has impacted past, current and future students. As students, we are the university’s most important stakeholders, and the reason that our institution carries on. This is why we felt it necessary to organize this discussion with the legislators. Although we greatly appreciate the legislators taking time to meet with us, we were disappointed by many of their stances at the end of the meeting, and fear our experiences and feelings may have fallen on deaf ears. The name change is not yet official, as the recommendation is currently in the hands of our state legislators. After meeting with them, we feel underrepresented by our local legislators and are concerned by their lack of support.

We feel as though the name should be consistent with the goals and mission of the institution. Dixie State wants every student to have equal opportunities. However, as we move forward to becoming an open, inclusive, comprehensive, polytechnic university, this name may prevent some students from having equal opportunities. 

We feel as though the name should be consistent with the goals and mission of the institution.

The word Dixie has a national meaning that ties it to the South and the confederacy, which we recognize is vastly different from the local understanding of the term. We understand and value the history of DSU and St. George, and will continue to fight to preserve it. Our heritage is important to us, but the future of the students should not be jeopardized by the university’s name.

We cannot and should not wait for every community member to be an advocate for the name change, as this is an issue that is affecting students here and now. Although, we will continue to help them understand why the name change recommendation is necessary. 

We are the constituents impacted by the name; with that, we hope our legislators consider past, current, and prospective students’ success when they cast their vote this legislative session. It is time to move into a newer, brighter future and change the Dixie name.

Penny Mills is the student body president and Cory O’Bray is the vice president of marketing on Dixie State University’s Student Executive Council. Other members of the council contributed to this op-ed: Riley Randall, vice president of academics; Kodi Jo McKinlay, vice president of clubs and organizations; Oliver Martinez, vice president of student life; and Abigail Scherzinger, chief of staff.