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Dixie State University Gets a Controversial Name Change

Utah Legislature votes for change to Utah Tech University
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 15, 2020 9:30 AM CST
Updated Nov 11, 2021 12:54 AM CST
Dixie State University Follows Lead of the Chicks
The campus of Dixie State University.   (YouTube/DSU)

(Newser) Update: Dixie State University will likely soon be called Utah Tech University. The Republican-controlled state legislature in Utah voted to change the name Wednesday, despite local outcry from those who insisted the regional importance of the word "Dixie" is separate from the word's association with slavery, the AP reports. "This process is not about cancel culture. No one is trying to erase the great history of this beloved institution," said the Republican lawmaker who co-sponsored the bill. "We as Utahns pride ourselves in our forward thinking ... it just makes sense that our students in this great state will be better served by the name Utah Tech University." Our original story from Dec. 15, 2020, follows:

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Dixie State University appears to be following the lead of the Chicks. The Utah university's board of trustees unanimously approved a motion to change the school's name on Monday after a survey showed respondents related it to the Confederacy. Some 41% of Utahans and 64% of respondents from the school's recruiting region say "Dixie"—a name applied to southwestern Utah when it was first slapped on the school in 1913, per the New York Times—was evocative of the South or Confederacy. Among the latter group, 42% said the name made them less likely to attend the public university. The name "now shows agreement, whether tacit or explicit, with Confederate ideals of racism, oppression, and exclusion," reads an executive summary, per KSL. The study was launched after the university's faculty senate voted earlier this year to change the name, following the death of George Floyd.

Some 22% of recent alums said out-of-state employers had expressed concern at seeing the word "Dixie" on resumes, while 47% of out-of-state alumni said they were uncomfortable sporting DSU's brand, per KSL. Additionally, 48% of African American respondents said that keeping the name would negatively impact the school's reputation. Some 33% of white respondents said the same, compared to 29% in both groups who said the name would reflect positively. University President Richard "Biff" Williams says the school needs a name that "will help us recruit, maintain, and graduate the best and brightest." Though the name is cherished locally, locals can't "explain it to everyone," said trustee Tiffany Wilson, per KSL. She voted for the change as Dixie State's mission "is to be open and inclusive." Utah's System of Higher Education will need to give its OK before any change can be made. (Read more name change stories.)

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