UPDATED: Dixie State University name change bill passes House, heads to governor for signature

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 — Following the Utah Senate’s vote to pass legislation creating a process to change the name of Dixie State University Wednesday, the Utah House of Representatives gave the bill a final nod of approval.

Update, March 3, 6:50 p.m.In a 48-23 vote with 4 no-votes, the House passed the bill which now awaits a final signature from Gov. Spencer Cox.

Dixie State University released a statement following that reads in part:

Dixie State University is deeply appreciative to our state legislators and to the numerous individuals who have dedicated countless hours to House Bill 278S01. In particular, we would like to thank Senators Don Ipson and Mike McKell and Representatives Kelly Miles and Brad Last for their leadership in crafting and supporting this legislation. We acknowledge this has been a difficult yet important process, but we look forward to the opportunity to continue this dialogue. We are eager to work with Governor Cox as this legislation awaits his signature. We are confident that we can identify a name that enables our institution to move forward in the very best interest of our students and community.

The full statement can be found here.

In a 26-3 vote, Utah State senators passed a bill Wednesday aimed at creating a process to change the name of Dixie State University.

A sign made in support of HB 278, Name Change Process for Dixie State University is ready to load onto a charter bus bound for Salt Lake City, St. George, Utah, Feb. 24, 2021 | Photo by Hollie Stark, St. George News

The bill, Name Change Process for Dixie State University, designated HB 278, has been one of the more divisive bills in the 2021 legislative session and it has undergone one substitute and a few amendments in the process.

“This has been a very, very difficult issue we are trying to face, and it’s been very divisive quite frankly,” Southern Utah Sen. Evan Vickers said on the Senate floor.

Prior to the bill being heard on the floor, it was heard in the Senate Education Committee Monday where Southern Utah Sen. Don Ipson proposed a substitute to the bill that was unanimously adopted by the committee before being favorably recommended in a 6-1 vote to move to the full Senate body for debate. The bill as it is currently written will allow for a more public process in undergoing a name change and creates a committee representing students, university personnel, community members and industry leaders, which will “provide opportunity for input from and collaboration with the public.”

The committee will then recommend a name to the Dixie State Board of Trustees that must reflect the institution’s mission and significance to the surrounding region and state and allow the university to compete and be recognized nationally.

If accepted, the name will then be forwarded to the Utah Board of Higher Education and will then come back to the Legislature for final approval.

The substitute bill also creates a $500,000 fiscal note allowing for the creation of a heritage committee should the Dixie State University Board of Trustees and the Utah Board of Higher Education forward a name to the Legislature that does not include the term “Dixie.”

Demonstrators gather at the Dixie State University Encampment Mall to show their opposition to House Bill 278, Name Change Process for Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, March 1, 2021 | Photo by Hollie Stark, St. George News

The substitute bill will now return to the House for further consideration.

Dixie State University Student Body President Penny Mills said that she is so relieved the bill passed the Senate.

“I’m feeling very hopeful. Very, very hopeful,” Mills said.

After the bill appeared to stall when rumors surfaced that it may have been killed in a closed caucus meeting of Republican senators, Mills organized a student trip to the state Capitol building to rally in favor of the Senate hearing the bill.

Legislators, including Ipson, were impressed with the student representation and said they were very respectful.

“They treated us with respect,” Ipson said in a previous St. George News report. “I commend them and the university for the very dignified way that they presented themselves.”

While the name change debate has been divisive, senators and university leaders alike said they are ultimately trying to do what is best for the students.

Mills agreed.

It’s not about me,” Mills said, “it’s about us, our students and our futures.”

For a complete list of contacts for Southern Utah representatives and senators, click here.

Check out all of St. George News’ coverage of the 2021 Utah Legislature here.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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