UTAH TECH UNIVERSITY'S STUDENT NEWS SOURCE | September 24, 2022

‘Dixie’ hottest topic at name change forum

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Students, faculty, alumni and community members are torn when it comes to picking what the future name of the campus will be; the word “Dixie” is polarizing all the attention. 

The Name Change Forum held Nov. 1 allowed for people’s concerns to surface.   

Erik Sorenson, president and CEO of Sorenson Advertising, moderated the event. 

“This is important for the entire region, not just the university,” he said. “Hopefully a year from now we can look back at this process and be prideful that we were a part of this.”   

More than 40 people attended the forum. It included input from about 18 people and lasted more than an hour. The main issue debated was if “Dixie” should stay or be left out of the future name of the school.

Those advocating “Dixie” stay in the name referred to history and tradition.

“We are Utah’s Dixie…and we have a different culture down here that sets us apart,” said Keith Goodrich, a senior education major from St. George. “Our name is a part of that, and the tradition we have in our name is very, very important. I am for keeping ‘Dixie’ in the name.”

Some residents even said taking out “Dixie” could have financial implications.

St. George resident Maureen Miles said, “I have talked to several different people in the community who said, ‘If they take the name ‘Dixie’ out, my finances will not include donations to Dixie State College.’”

The connotations of “Dixie” are a main holdup for people wanting a new name.

“Not all students and faculty are for keeping ‘Dixie’ in the name,” said Summer Barry, a senior English major from St. George. “The connotations…are very negative to the name of ‘Dixie’ if you go out of the state. There are a lot of us…that represent the college in other states, even back East and the West, and it does carry a negative connotation.”

Administration over recruiting said it can be a hindrance for some.

“Time and time again I am asked, ‘Where is Dixie; do you know what Dixie is,’” said Joshua Sine, director of new student programs. “Unfortunately, I don’t have time to define the association.”

Sine said the name should be tailored to non-Utah students who come to DSC.

“There is a reason we are having this conversation right now,” Sine said. “Sixty percent of [enrolled Dixie students] come from Washington County and every single one of them knows what Dixie stands for, but the other 40 percent who come from wherever they come from…don’t know what it means.”

Some encourage people to know what “Dixie” represents.

Woody Woodbury, a senior business major from St. George, said, “If somebody does not know what Dixie is here for, or where that term came from as far as this region, then they need to educate themselves.”

Some teachers showed their attachment to “Dixie.”

“I don’t know if I could continue to teach at this school if we were to lose the name ‘Dixie,’” said Wesley Pack, an adjunct instructor of English. “I wouldn’t feel true to my ancestors who came here in the early 1850s and were growing cotton and growing wine, grapes.”   

Some teachers said the word is a stumbling block during the hiring process.

Dannelle Larsen-Rife, assistant professor of psychology, said during her experiences on hiring committees, some have said: “Why would I come to a place that signifies racism? That is something I have to explain that it really isn’t like that. If the name ‘Dixie’ is retained, then it will have to be ‘Dixie: Yes, we are not really racist.’” 

Others said the history of the area should bear more weight than social issues.

“As an institution of higher learning, political correctness is huge and important, but something that should trump political correctness is historical, factual correctness,” said Nate Caplin, an adjunct instructor of history. “That includes understanding the nuances of history and the etymological development of names. It’s very clear we have etymological, historical and social development in the name ‘Dixie.’”

Alternatives to this debate were given as a compromise or an entirely new idea.

“If you are promoting to future students…some don’t understand what Dixie is; they have heard of it…but [students outside of Utah] have no idea where it is located,” said Kylie Bandley, a freshman general education major from St. George. “[The name] should incorporate something with the state or with St. George and kind of [associate] them both with our heritage and where we are located. That would definitely draw in more students.”

One person suggested naming the school after prominent historical figures of St. George.

“To me it is a tragedy that I grew up learning the meaning and symbolism behind the nickname ‘Dixie,’” said Jon Ence, St. George resident and an alumnus of DSC. “George A. Smith and Philip St. George Cocke personify the tradition that we as stakeholders are looking for in a new name because of their loyalty to their principles and causes.”

Sorenson Advertising has made DSC its new home for the next two to three months. Dixie hired the company to do independent research in attempt to gain the majority census on what the new name should be.

Sorenson Advertising will continue to conduct one-on-one interviews, forums and start a community survey on Nov. 8. Then there will be a community meeting on Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. at the third floor of the Community Arts Center.

The final name change recommendation will be determined at the end of December and then proposed to the Board of Regents and State Legislature in early January.