Dixie State University community protests, counter-protests name change

Dixie State University students and community march on Jan. 11 to protest the possibility of a university name change. “I just feel like it would be changing the community and taking out some of the love we have for this place,” said Spencer Laub, a sophomore business management major from Enterprise. Photo by Yasel Avalos.

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By Kristi Shields and Yasel Avalos.

Video by Stephanie Du Par

The first day of Dixie State University’s spring semester kicked off with a protest against the university’s potential name change and featured the Defending Southwestern Utah Heritage Coalition.

DSU students and members of the community gathered around the campus displaying sentiment to keep the Dixie name while counter-protestors fought for the change of the university name.

The protestors fighting to keep the Dixie name marched with signs and wore T-shirts that read “Keep Dixie, Utah’s Dixie” starting across the street from campus at 700 E. 300 S., then walked around the Human Performance Center and through campus, ending at the clocktower while shouting “honor the pioneers.”

Much deliberation has gone into making the decision with both the Board of Trustees and the Utah Board of Higher Education voting to recommend a name change.

More conservative voices from the community have been resistant to the idea. The idea to protest originated in Facebook posts on a group titled “Defending Southwestern Utah Heritage Coalition (DSUHC)” calling for a rally.

Spencer Laub, a sophomore business management major from Enterprise, said his family has long ties with the Dixie community and it is disheartening to see the possibility of a name change.

“[I] love Dixie,” Laub said. “I love the traditions they have, and I just want to keep those traditions.”

He said this is a loving community and the history should not be changed.

“‘Dixie’ is just a word commonly used around here, and we are proud to have it as ‘Dixie,'” Laub said. “I just feel like it would be changing the community and taking out some of the love we have for this place.”

Three community members counter-protest to move forward with the university name change. Sally Lacourse said the name of the university should properly reflect the university, and she said “Dixie” does not. Photo by Aubrey Gurney.

Joan Runs Through, assistant director and lab examiner at the Digital Forensics Crime Lab, said “Dixie” is more of a nickname of the community and school, but should no longer be the official university name. As the university grows, the name should reflect that growth, but she said she doesn’t believe Dixie reflects the professionalism the university has.

Community member Lysa McCarroll said it’s time for the community to move on from a name that reflects negativity.

“If you need to constantly explain why Dixie is OK, then there is a problem,” McCarroll said. “This is a public institution. If a private business wants to use the name ‘Dixie’ they can have at it, but this institution is taking public funding and does not have the same choices.”

Sally Lacourse, a community member and wife of Provost Michael Lacourse, said DSU is a polytechnic university and the name should reflect that. Changing the name will benefit the students’ futures.

Lacourse said having “Dixie” on a resume can make it more difficult for students to land a job because of the connotations tied to the name.

Alumnus Jeffrey Jennings, who is fighting to keep the name, explained the long history he has with the university, starting with his involvement in buying and building several campus housing buildings and his family donating money to the school in the ’60s.

“I have a lot of reasons to love Dixie,” Jennings said. “This area has been called Dixie from day one when the pioneers came and grew cotton; that is what Dixie is referred to. It has nothing to do with racism… [We are] here today fighting for the name that our ancestors paid for.”

A common argument brought up tying the school to racism is the history of slave auctions the university hosted, but Jennings explains his knowledge of this history.

Jennings said he knows of several universities, including those in Utah, that held slave auctions in the past, and it had nothing to do with slavery, it was the university’s way of fundraising.

Kanton Vause, a former Dixie State student and organizer of the event, who is against the name change, said students who haven’t made up their minds on the decision should “educate [themselves] on the information; there’s not a problem you can’t solve in society without education.”