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‘Utah Tech University’ recommended by state board as new name for Dixie State University

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Board of Higher Education voted unanimously on Wednesday to recommend that Dixie State University’s name be changed to Utah Tech University.

The name now moves to the Utah Legislature, which must approve any name change to a state university. Lawmakers could vote on the new name later this year or during the 2022 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.

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 resumes. 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.

House Speaker Brad Wilson said 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.”

Name change process

School and state leaders surveyed key stakeholders, students, alumni, local residents and faculty, staff and partners and released six themes that would be considered in focus group discussions.

The Dixie State University Name Recommendation Committee, created under HB278, voted 11-3 in favor of renaming the university “Utah Polytechnic State University” with an alternative name of “Utah Tech” over the summer.

The UPSU name was quickly met by both support and backlash from members of the community. Those initially opposed to the name viewed the shorthand as confusing and possibly problematic, especially given the state’s past history with polygamy.

The DSU Board of Trustees called the UPSU name an “epic failure” during a June 29 meeting before voting unanimously to recommend the Utah Tech University name.

The Utah Board of Higher Education had until Nov. 1 to select and recommend a new name for the school to state legislators.

University spokesperson Jordon Sharp told the Associated Press that administrators understand the term Dixie “stirs negative connotations associated with discrimination and intolerance” for some people. But, he said, Dixie State also respects that the word has a regional meaning that people believe describes the “local heritage and honoring the men and women who settled the beautiful St. George area.”

The area was nicknamed Dixie when Latter-day Saints pioneers settlers tried to make the region a cotton-growing mecca. Supporters have said the name is important to the area’s heritage and is separate from the history of slavery.

Dixie State has taken steps in recent years to remove some imagery related to the Confederacy. The school’s nickname was changed from the Rebels to Red Storm in 2009, before being changed to Trailblazers in 2016.

A statue depicting a soldier on a horseback waving a Confederate flag with one hand and reaching out to a wounded soldier with the other was removed in 2012.

Tiffany Wilson, chairwoman of the DSU Board of Trustees, said she recently pulled out her college yearbook, which was titled “The Confederate.” There was a Confederate flag on the book’s cover and it included multiple photos of students waving confederate flags at sporting events.

“How did we not see that could be a problem?” Wilson said.

According to the Deseret News, recently aired TV commercials purchased by the Defending Southwestern Utah Heritage Coalition directed at state lawmakers say the name change is an attempt to “cancel” the Dixie name.

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