‘Utah Tech University’ one step closer to becoming new name for Dixie State

ST. GEORGEThe Utah Board of Higher Education unanimously voted Wednesday to approve the proposed name, Utah Tech University, as part of the ongoing name change process for Dixie State University.

In this file photo, Tiffany Wilson, chair of the Dixie State Board of Trustees, addresses reporters following the vote to recommend Utah Tech University, St. George, Utah, June 29, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

“We are so excited and thrilled that the state board accepted the name recommendation and passed it unanimously,” said Tiffany Wilson, chair of the DSU Board of Trustees. “The support is there from people who have studied this issue in depth for well over a year, and we’re really hopeful that the state Legislature will look at the research that has been done and the thousands of people who have either participated in a survey or responded in focus groups.”

The state board’s vote is the latest development in a name change process that has spanned 15 months, gathered more than 25,000 responses and sparked controversy on campus and in the wider Southern Utah region.

Dixie State officials began considering a name change because of feedback from alumni indicating concern about the name, “Dixie,” particularly for younger graduates seeking work out of state.

“I never wanted to take on this issue, and I have a personal love and affection for the name Dixie, which happens to be my mother’s name,” Wilson said. “However, once the information from alumni started to come in, we were flooded with feedback from alumni telling us the challenges that they had.”

However, critics of the name change process say that the university failed to produce concrete evidence of widespread harm caused by the name. Brad Bennett, community action committee chair for the Defending Southwestern Utah Heritage Coalition, cited the Cicero report prepared for the university to investigate the name change process and took issue with the sample size of responding graduates.

In this June 2021 file photo, protestors gathered to oppose the name change process and to show their support for the name “Dixie,” St. George, Utah | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

Bennett said that he feels the appointed officials on the board of trustees and the Utah Board of Higher Education had their minds made up from the start, and he expects the voting by legislators to be more representative of Utah’s majority.

“Honestly, it doesn’t affect us one way or another because we never expected anything different,” he said. “The board of trustees and the board of higher education are not representing the community properly or Utahns in general. We just don’t know why it (the name change) even made it this far.”

For her part, Wilson said that the university has gone to great lengths to validate not only the findings of the Cicero study, but also explore the issue in focus groups and discussions that aren’t represented solely by statistics.

“All of that data is there – we’re looking at all the pieces of the puzzle,” she said. “You can’t just take one little piece of the process and use it to say, ‘This particular question showed that Dixie was the favorite name.’ You’re ignoring everything else if you do that. By far the two highest scoring themes were Utah and the academic mission.”

The Defending Southwestern Utah Heritage Coalition continues to urge all supporters of the name “Dixie” to write to Utah legislators in the state House and Senate. Dixie supporters, and anyone hoping to express their thoughts, can contact any member of the state Legislature, but Sen. Don Ipson (R-St. George) will likely be the most influential voice on this topic.

A rendering of possible apparel options showing off the proposed name replacing Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, image undated | Photo courtesy of Dixie State University, St. George News

“Any elected official anywhere along the line that votes against (Dixie) is voting against the will of their constituents – which they really don’t have the right to do,” Bennett said. “If they’ll vote against their constituents on this, they’ll vote against their constituents on other things as well, and that is a huge red flag.”

Those who support a name change, but prefer an alternative to Utah Tech, were similarly unsurprised by the board’s decision and hopeful that the Legislature would challenge the current proposal.

“This doesn’t change the fact that there are other options still out there that can be considered,” said Kaitlyn Larsen, co-organizer of the “Name it St. George” group. “I want people to be proud of our heritage and uniqueness, and not be afraid for our university to stand out amongst others. We’re really pushing for people to sign our petition.”

The future of “Utah Tech,” “Dixie State” or some other alternative is set for consideration when the 2022 legislative session begins Jan. 18. While the name of the university may yet change, the regional name “Dixie” will not change as a consequence of this process, Wilson said.

“It’s really important that the community knows there is no additional effort to change any other Dixie names in our community,” she said, adding that the university serves a national and even worldwide audience at this point. 

“We have a responsibility to our students to eliminate any potential obstacles that would stand in the way of their success,” Wilson said. “We want to support the community in maintaining our local meaning of Dixie and our local understanding of the word.”

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

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!