Utah Board of Higher Education unanimously votes to recommend an institutional name change for Dixie State University

File photo: Signage on 700 East in St. George welcomes students, staff and visitors to Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, Dec. 14, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Stark, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — In a Committee of the Whole Meeting held Friday morning, the Utah Board of Higher Education voted unanimously to recommend to the state legislature that Dixie State University undergo an institutional name change.

Friday’s vote came after DSU’s Board of Trustees voted Monday to make the recommendation and forward it to the state board for their consideration. The vote came after receiving and reviewing the findings of an impact study commissioned by the university in August and conducted by the independent consulting company Cicero Group.

Dixie State University, St. George, Dec. 14, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Stark, St. George News

The task of the study was to meaningfully measure the impacts, both positive and negative, of the name “Dixie” on the university, previous St. George News report said.

Members of the State Board of Higher Education were presented with the results of the impact study and Friday were given the opportunity to ask questions of members of the Cicero Group as well as members of the DSU Board of Trustees, including DSU President Richard B. Williams and Board Vice Chair Tiffany Wilson.

A press release from the Utah State Board of Higher Education shared the following data points from the impact study:

Among the findings, the impact study shows that 22% of recent graduates looking for jobs outside of Utah have had a prospective employer express concern that the word “Dixie” is on their résumé.

Forty-two percent of respondents from the university’s recruiting region and 27% of alumni indicated that the Dixie name has a negative impact on their willingness to attend DSU or encourage a student to do so. Additionally, almost half of current faculty and staff think keeping the name Dixie will have a negative impact on recruiting new faculty and staff.

The full impact report can be read here.

Dixie State University President Richard B. Williams attends the Utah State Board of Higher Education Committee of the Whole Meeting via teleconference, Salt Lake City, Utah, Dec. 18, 2020 | Screenshot image, St. George News

Though the impact study did show strong support for keeping “Dixie” among members of the Southern Utah community, Wilson said in her remarks at the meeting that while they love and respect the community and its support for the university, the decision to recommend the name change is ultimately about the students.

“We need their support, we appreciate their support, but as far as being negatively affected, a community member in my perspective is not necessarily going to be negatively affected by this name,” Wilson said, adding that it does not change their opportunities or job prospectives, they just don’t like it.

“The people that are going to be negatively affected are, pure and simple, one group and it is students,” Wilson said.

Following review and discussion of the data, Utah Higher Board of Education Vice Chair Aaron Osmond made the following motion, which board member Alan Hall seconded:

I move that the Utah Board of Higher Education support the recommendation from Dixie State University’s Board of Trustees to change the university’s name; I further move that the Board recommend to the Legislature that it change the name of Dixie State University.

The vote to approve the motion was unanimous.

In a press release from the State Board of Higher Education Board Chair Harris H. Simmons said that they support Dixie State University in their recommendation to change the university’s name.

“We, like the university, are committed to ensuring student success, both in and out of the state, and making this adjustment now will help ensure their success over the long term,” Simmons said.

Williams expressed his gratitude for the decision and the support of the state board in a text message to St. George News.

“Dixie State University genuinely appreciates the unanimous support from the Utah State Board of Education through their vote today. We recognize this is a difficult step for our local community, but we are confident this is the right decision for our students, their future, and our institution’s development,” he said.

The recommendation will now be forwarded to the legislature, which will make the final decision as the university’s name is in state statute.

If the legislature votes in favor of a name change, the university will begin the process of choosing said name, a process, Williams said in his remarks Friday, that will involve the community.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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