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December 07, 2012 11:00 AM The Other Dixie

By Daniel Luzer

NotThatDixie

It’s perhaps time for Dixie State College to change its name. In the first place, because it’s added several graduate programs, it might feel itself entitled to the “university” designation.

That might be putting on airs, but then, after 100 years, maybe it’s earned the right to move up in the world. The name change has generated controversy, however, because administrators don’t just want to change the last name; they want to eliminate the “Dixie.”

That’s because Dixie State is in Utah.

It does, however, have a weird legacy in the Deep South. According to an Associated Press article in the Desert News:

Dixie State College of Utah got its name after Mormon settlers, primarily from the South, tried to turn the warm region into a cotton-growing mecca in the 1800s.
But some people argue the moniker carries negative, Deep South connotations and should be stricken from the name of the campus that features a statue of Confederate soldiers and only recently retired the Rebel as its school mascot.

One community member, speaking at a meeting about the name change, explained the problem pretty succinctly:

“The question really is, do you want to be perceived by everybody else on the planet as a defiant school promoting racism, or do you want to be perceived as a respectable school which promotes the high ideals of our society?” said Richard Hutchins, who attended a Thursday forum exploring a potential name change.

The dilemma is a basic structural one; supporters want to retain the name as a legacy to the school’s past. The school’s past, however, is sort of associated with slavery-based agriculture and a bloody conflict in which half of the United States attempted to leave the union in order to preserve their right to own other human beings.

Some people affiliated with the college seem to think that the school’s success will be somehow hindered by the name. This seems a little unlikely since, while Hutchins is worried about “everybody else on the planet,” Dixie State is a 7,000-student institution in southwestern Utah; the school’s potential students are mostly from Utah and likely already familiar with the institution (though one wonders how often it gets applications from confused high school kids in Mississippi and Alabama thinking it’s one of those schools with a big football program and a strong Greek system).

Other names the school is considering include Zion University, Utah Southwestern University, Red Rock University, and St. George University. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer