Got thoughts on Dixie State University’s name? The university’s name recommendation committee wants your input.
An online survey will be conducted through April 13 as one means of gathering input on the St. George institution’s name and to gauge the importance of the university name reflecting its academic mission, location or area history.
Some of the options floated in the survey include Red Rock University, Utah Polytechnic University and St. George University, as well as Dixie State University, Utah’s Dixie University and Greater Zion University. Other options on the survey include Snow Canyon State University, Desert State University and Southwest Utah State.
The survey also enables participants to offer their own suggestions.
It asks participants to rank factors important to the future success of the university — whether the name is inclusive and welcoming to all students; helps students’ job placement or graduate school admission prospects; respects heritage; or improves the school’s academic reputation among other options.
On Thursday, the St. George City Council voted unanimously in support of a resolution in support of Utah’s Dixie.
The resolution said in part: “Whereas the mayor and City Council will continue to support Dixie by leaving the Dixie on the Sugarloaf, keeping the name Dixie Drive, keeping the name of the Dixie Academy building, keeping the Dixie symbol and we will continue to support all businesses, all schools, sports and institutions with Dixie in their name.”
The Sugarloaf refers to a large red sandstone rock formation on the city’s north side on which Dixie is painted in white paint.
Councilwoman Dannielle Larkin noted her pioneer heritage and that she honors the regional sensibilities about the name Dixie, which the resolution say dates back to 1861 when 309 families were called by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to establish the cotton mission in St. George.
“I think part of our pioneering spirit is the ability to engage in ongoing self-awareness, and I think that it’s a mistake for us in our community to vilify anyone who stands on either side of some of the debates that are going on right now. I don’t think that there’s any villains in this, especially with what’s going on with the university,” she said.
St. George Mayor Michele Randall said she attended a recent meeting over the university’s name that was “very civil. I felt like everybody was listening to everybody.”
“The only comment I had to make is, I’m really saddened by the fracture this has created in our community,” Randall said. “I hope when all is said and done we will be able to come together and truly show the Dixie spirit and be one community again and the division goes to the wayside. It was a very productive, good meeting and it made me hopeful that they’ll come together with something that hopefully everyone can live with.”
Earlier this year, Utah lawmakers passed legislation that creates a process to develop a recommendation for a new name for the university. Under Utah law, only the Utah Legislature has authority to change a public college or university name.
An early version of HB278, which passed handily in the House, created a process for recommending a name change but said the university’s name could not be Dixie State University. The bill stalled in the Senate over some leaders’ concerns that the public process over the proposed name change had been insufficient.
Lawmakers eventually compromised on substitute legislation, which called for a more extensive public process and did not prohibit a future recommendation of Dixie State as the university’s name. Under the legislation, higher education officials are expected to deliver a recommendation to legislative leaders later this year.
If higher education leaders forward a name to lawmakers that does not include the term Dixie, the university trustees “shall all establish a heritage committee to identify and implement strategies to preserve the heritage, culture and history of the region on the campus of the institution, including the regional significance of the term ‘Dixie.’” The revised legislation comes with a one-time $500,000 appropriation to assist the preservation efforts of the heritage committee.
Julie Beck, a member of the Dixie State board of trustees and chairwoman of the newly selected name recommendation committee, urged all stakeholders to participate in the survey.
“As a DSU alumna and descendent of some of the very first pioneers to settle in this region, I profoundly understand the desire to preserve and share southern Utah’s revered heritage,” Beck said in a statement.
“That is why it is so important that the name recommendation committee hears input from the community throughout the entire name recommendation process.”
The survey, created and managed by Love Communications of Salt Lake City, will help inform other aspects of the name change process, such as focus groups and the deliberations of the 19-member name recommendation committee comprised of students, university employees, community members and industry leaders,
The committee will present a recommendation to the DSU trustees. If the trustees vote in favor of the name recommended by the committee, it will be forwarded to the Utah Board of Higher Education for its consideration and possible submission to state lawmakers.
Discussions about the university’s name have been going on for decades but intensified after protests across the country following George Floyd’s death last summer while in police custody in Minneapolis. In January, Intermountain Healthcare changed the name of its southern Utah hospital from Dixie Regional Medical Center to Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital.
Last summer, DSU administrators commissioned a study by the Cicero Group to consider the impacts of the name. It found the university’s name has become “increasingly problematic for our students and alumni” and has hindered the university’s ability to recruit students, faculty and staff, and has limited its ability to build partnerships and obtain grants and funding.
Opponents countered that changing the university’s name was tantamount to cancel culture and that, historically, the area became known as Dixie because Latter-day Saint pioneers came to the area to grow crops such as cotton that were cultivated in the South.
In recent years, the university did away with its Rebels mascot, switching to the Trailblazers. Officials have also removed Confederate imagery from the campus, including a statue titled The Rebels, which depicted a horse and Confederate soldiers, one of whom carried a Confederate battle flag.