The Utah Legislature passes the name change to the state of Dixie

Dixie State University senior Cris Patzan and other students demonstrate outside the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday to call for the university to change its name to Utah Tech. The proposal to change the name of Dixie State University to Utah Tech was passed on Wednesday after two long debates over whether it would betray the community or give students a better chance of success. (Kristin Murphy, Desert News)

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SALT LAKE CITY – The proposal to change the name of Dixie State University to Utah Tech was passed on Wednesday after two long debates over whether it would betray the community or give students a better chance of success.

The bill passed House 56-15. It happened the Senate 17-12. It will be moved to Governor Spencer Cox’s office for signature before it goes into effect.

In support of the bill, Sponsor Rep. Kelly Miles, R-Ogden, emphasized that Dixie State “did exactly what we asked them to do in our regular session. and whether they wanted to pass on a new name for Dixie State University. “

Miles said those involved completed a “myriad” of studies and surveys in a “very thorough process.” This is despite claims by opponents of the name change within the community that their voices have not been heard.

Dixie State University is part of the state higher education system, Miles said, stressing that it “exists for our students and its main role is to educate students and prepare them for working life”.

‘Heritage Center’ proposed

At the Senate level, Vice Chairman of the Senate Budget, Don Ipson, R-St. George, noted that Dixie started as a high school in 1911 and became Dixie Academy in 1913.

“Locals wanted the Dixie name to be associated with their school and that attitude has carried on from generation to generation,” said Ipson.

“On behalf of the Washington County residents whom I represent and who have an overwhelming desire to maintain the name that is such a legacy for our community, I ask you today to vote no,” he said.

Following negotiations during this year’s AGM, Ipson co-sponsored the BillHB278 Compromise to initiate the name change process and instruct Dixie State University to begin a robust public comment-gathering phase.

Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, said that after moving to southern Utah about 40 years ago, he “understands and values ​​the culture more.” Snow emphasized that the opinions of those who oppose the name change are important to him.

Having a “heritage center” on campus could help preserve and celebrate the region’s history, Snow said.

He also proposed a change that would require the Board of Trustees to designate the main campus as the Dixie Campus for at least 20 years. After that, it would be the decision of the trustees to keep using the name.

Snow’s suggestion made it into the bill.

“We have to work on building bridges now and I think we have tried to do this with the memorial committee and the memorial center on campus and I think we keep trying by allowing this campus to be named as Dixie Campus be known, “said Snow.

University management react

“We are grateful. We are really grateful to the Senate, the House of Representatives and all those who have supported us. This is a big step for our students and a leap forward that takes the institution forward,” said DSU President Richard ” Biff “Williams after the bill was passed.

When he spoke to, staff cried and hugged behind him in the Capitol corridor.

“It was something people on both sides sacrificed whether they wanted the name change or not. It was very emotional and we are sensitive to it because there are a lot of people in the community who have given their hearts and souls to the community and now they feel like we’ve given that up, “Williams said.

He said the school now needs to “build that relationship and return trust”.

Williams said officials are also excited to have a Dixie campus in St. George.

“As you know, we have a strong legacy in southern Utah. We love our communities, they love us. We were a little divided on this because we want to move the students forward. So a Dixie campus will really allow us to,” she said : ‘That was our story. We have a great culture down here, a great community, ‘”he said.

Jordon Sharp, DSU vice president of marketing and communications, said the process was “really difficult, emotional and exciting”.

“We love our community, we love Dixie State, and the only thing I can say is our students, and today was really about them,” Sharp said.

Heated debate

Before the House vote, Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George called the name Dixie “our soul in southern Utah”.

He said he had “big problems” with arguments that the name affects students and other arguments against keeping the name. According to Brooks, the school has grown every year for the past five years, including minorities. He said the university also has a higher percentage of African American students than the University of Utah.

Brooks pointed to the university’s 95 percent recruitment rate, which he thought was better than Harvard’s.

“How does that restrict people?” asked Brooks.

Rep. Steve Waldrip, R-Eden, urged other lawmakers to consider passing the bill in favor of the students.

“The only question we should be asking ourselves is: is this a state institution that we are responsible for, and how does the name affect the students? Those are the only questions we should be asking, ”said Waldrip.

“How many students are you willing to sacrifice on the altar named Dixie?” he added.

Senator John Johnson, R-North Ogden, said he was “harassed” that the university legislature had given the university a year to speak to residents, but he received emails from people after hearing the committee the previous day, in which they said, “It’s so nice to be able to speak.”

“These people were very frustrated, they felt like they never had a voice and I think that’s terrible,” said Johnson.

He said he was also concerned that DSU President Williams had told people that the school would become Utah Tech “like Texas Tech and Virginia Tech.” However, these extra-state schools have very large budgets, Johnson claimed.

“Just because they changed the name, is this Utah Tech University now? I think that’s very bad,” said Johnson, expressing concern that parents will send children to school because they believe they are too comparable to these other schools.

“You can’t get too far ahead of reality in your ambitions and if you do, the elastic will break,” he added.

McCay said he spent the last week in St. George talking to people about the subject. An older woman didn’t want to change her name, a new resident didn’t care, but the athletes told him that when others introduce themselves at events, they think they are from a southern state.

“This is the worst kind of branding confusion if you’re a university you’d ever want to have,” McCay said.

Contribute: Katie McKellar

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