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Utah Senate passes Dixie State name change bill

Nov 10, 2021, 5:25 PM | Updated: 7:00 pm
new name dixie state utah polytechnic university...
Dixie State University in St. George is pictured on Friday, April 9, 2021. Photo: Jeffrey Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The name of  Dixie State University will become a thing of the past.  Lawmakers on Utah’s Capitol Hill voted to change the name of the school to Utah Tech University after long and emotional discussions.

Is “Dixie” offensive, or has “cancel culture” taken over?  That was one of the main debates on Utah’s Capitol Hill.  First, on the House floor, supporters of HB 2001 say the people most affected by the name Dixie State University are the students, and Rep. Kelly Miles says the overwhelming majority of students want the name changed.

“This name recommendation is based on the interest of the students,” Miles says.

Other supporters, like Rep. Steve Waldrip, say the name is already causing problems for students.  He pointed out how the name “Dixie” is no longer used for tourist promotions because of its connection to the southern states during the Civil War.  He says the name has already caused students to lose job opportunities and admission to graduate schools.

“My question to you, at the end, is how many students are you willing to sacrifice on the altar of the name Dixie?” asks Waldrip.

Representative Jordan Teuscher says whether or not the name “Dixie” is problematic is beside the point.

“The institution has decided that they’re changing their mission and focus from a regional college to a national one,” according to Teuscher.

One representative, Lowry Snow, supported the name change, although he acknowledged losing the current name would upset a lot of people in southern Utah.  He added an amendment that would keep the name “Dixie” in a smaller way.

“[The amendment] requires that the Board of Trustees of this institution to designate main campus as the ‘Dixie Campus’ for a period of not less than 20 years,” Snow says.

That amendment was approved and the bill passed the House by a 56-15 vote.

The Senate approves, but not as strongly

The vote in the Senate was much closer than the House, but the debate was just as emotional.  Critics of the bill have doubts about the name becoming a hindrance to students, adding that the school has a very high employment rate for graduates and that enrollment has been steadily climbing.

Senator Don Ipson spoke out against the change, saying the name has been loved by his constituents for generations.

“The idea of ripping away the name of their school is, indeed, heart-wrenching,” says Ipson.

Senator Evan Vickers also opposed the bill, even though he says he has no feelings about the name, either way.  He says he received many emails from people in Washington County, saying the name change is akin to erasing their heritage.

Vickers says, “I’ve had a lot from the constituents I represent in Washington County.  It’s because of that I really feel like I need to support my constituents in this and stand up and say that I will be voting ‘no.’”

House Bill 2001 passed the Senate 17-12, and will go to the governor’s desk for his signature.

 

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Utah Senate passes Dixie State name change bill