Dixie State Students Protest In SLC After Senate Delays Name Change Bill
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The question about whether to change the name of Dixie State University has been a high-profile topic during Utah’s legislative session.
HB278 set up a process to change the name of the university after the institution’s board of trustees voted to drop “Dixie” from the title. The bill passed the House, but Republicans in the Senate have delayed hearings.
After the bill stalled in the Senate, the university’s student association announced it would be protesting on Capitol Hill.
“The senate refusing to hear the bill is them saying that our future as students doesn’t matter to them and that we are expendable,” according to an invitation sent by DSU Student Body President Penny Mills. “So, to show them we are not ok with that we are bringing the ‘A TEAM’ to their turf.”
The students gathered on the steps of the Capitol on Wednesday, while representatives from the DSUSA met with senators inside.
Students from @DixieState came to the Capitol to talk with legislators and were recognized on the Senate floor.
— Utah Senate (@utahsenate) February 24, 2021
Utah Senate President Stuart Adams tweeted that he appreciated the students’ participation in the legislative process.
“Without public input, we can’t create sound policy,” he wrote. “I believe we will find a solution.”
With the racist connotations of the word “Dixie,” some alumni have complained that the name of the university has been a hindrance in their efforts to find jobs. A survey also showed that the name could affect recruitment efforts for students and faculty out of state.
“We love Dixie,” said Abigail Scherzinger, DSU Student Association chief of staff. “We don’t want to change the name; we have to change the name.”
She said the word “Dixie” means the culture of the outdoors and the pioneering spirit for those who live inside Utah. But for those not from the area, it means something else entirely.
According to research from the Cicero Group, 22% of DSU graduates who sought work outside of Utah had potential employers express concern over the name of the university on their resume. The research also found that 42% of respondents from DSU’s recruiting region and 27% of alumni said the word “Dixie” had a negative impact on their willingness to attend the university or encourage a student to attend.
Data also shows “Dixie” means “the Confederacy” to 33% of southern Utah residents, 41% of Utahns overall, and 64% from the university’s recruiting region.
Speaker of the House Brad Wilson tweeted that the name may be beloved by many in the state, “but negative perceptions present challenges to both students and employers.”
“Today, these challenges were confirmed by business leaders from SkyWest and Vasion, two Washington County companies that employe hundreds of Utahns,” according to Wilson’s thread. “These companies shared first-hand experiences from their businesses and described the negative effects the term ‘Dixie’ has had on their employees, recruitment, and the growth potential of Southern Utah’s economy.”
He wrote that “now is the right time to make this change,” and that waiting longer “would do a great disservice to students and employers and unnecessarily prolong the divisive debate within our communities.”
Gov. Spencer Cox said he would sign the bill to change the university’s name, saying “Dixie” will ultimately be removed from the school’s title whether it happens now or happens later.
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