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Dixie State U. wants to change school name, local coalition starts fundraiser to keep it

The Dixie State University Board of Trustees recently voted to drop “Dixie” from the school’s name, prompting a local organization to set up a fundraiser in opposition to the decision.

According to FOX-13 in Salt Lake City, Utah, the board’s decision came after a consulting firm’s study showed negative connotations associated with the moniker.

For example, the report indicated 56 percent of “out-of-state recruiting areas believe the name will have a negative impact on the institution’s general brand,” 52 percent of those “outside of the state feel uncomfortable wearing [DSU] apparel outside of Utah” and 52 percent of recent out-of-state alumni “feel the name has a negative impact on the brand.”

In a statement, the trustees said that while they understand any change will be “difficult for many,” the word “Dixie” has “a national meaning that is vastly different from the local understanding of the term.”

The school got its name from the geographic area in which the original school, St. George Stake Academy, was built.

Dixie State President Richard Williams said it’s the school’s job to prepare students “for the careers of their dreams” and to “give graduates a competitive advantage”; however, “Dixie” can “present an obstacle [students] must overcome.”

Williams noted his Cabinet recommended the trustees and the Utah State Board of Higher Education “work collaboratively with the residents of Southwest Utah, DSU faculty and staff, the Utah State Legislature and the governor’s office to identify a new name” for Dixie State.

But a GoFundMe account set up by Ilene Hacker and associated with the Defending Southwestern Utah Heritage Coalition begs to differ.

“Erasing history and tearing down statues will not be tolerated in Utah’s Dixie,” the fundraiser states. “We have watched other communities throughout our nation work together to save their history and heritage, we can do this too.”

Hacker says monies raised will go towards hiring lobbyists to persuade Utah legislators from ultimately voting in favor of a DSU name change. And some of the results of the consulting firm’s report supports Hacker’s effort; for example, 62 percent of Southwestern Utah and 46 percent of Greater Utah “believe there will be greater brand appeal” if DSU keeps “Dixie.”

Further, only 22 percent of prospective Utah students say “Dixie” makes them “less likely to attend DSU.”

More from the St. George Spectrum:

“We’re just hopeful that the Legislature will not cave into the cancel culture and will look at (the Dixie name) for what it is and respect our history and our heritage,” Hacker said. …

“Erasing history and tearing down statues will not be tolerated in Utah’s Dixie,” The GoFundMe page states. “We have watched other communities throughout our nation work together to save their history and heritage, we can do this too.”

It goes on to state that community members love Dixie State and want to see their children and grandchildren attend the university under the same name they attended it.

It also asks community members to contact every legislator in Utah and ask them to vote against removing the word “Dixie” from Dixie State University during next month’s legislative session. Community members should also contact the Utah Board of Higher Education and ask them to support the Dixie name.

“There’s NO SHAME IN THE NAME!” the GoFundMe page states. “Let’s keep Dixie in Utah’s Dixie.”

Hacker’s effort currently has a bit over $4,000 of its $50,000 goal.

DSU spent almost $100,000 on its “name” study, and the trustees’ decision is backed by the Student Association, the University Council, the Faculty Senate and the Staff Association.

In order to officially change DSU’s name, the Utah legislature will have to approve it as “Dixie” is part of written state statute.

Read the FOX-13 and Spectrum articles.

MORE: U. Mississippi marching band drops ‘Dixie’ from game day playlist

MORE: Controversy erupts over college calling itself ‘Dixie’

IMAGE: Urustar / Flickr.com

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 18 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.